Friday, November 5, 2010

Jetstar (Mis) Management

I had flown up to Auckland from Christchurch early yesterday and was booked on the 7.35pm Jetstar flight back to Christchurch. I was at the airport with plenty of time and having booked in found the departure lounge quiet enough to catch up on some calls and work. By 6.30pm the departure lounge was full and I realised the Wellington flight was delayed due to technical difficulties with the plane. The Christchurch plane was at the gate and I watched our luggage being loaded. Then about 7.15pm I watched as luggage was being unloaded from the Christchurch plane. ‘Funny’ I thought. Could they have loaded the wrong luggage? Then there was an announcement (note the order of these things) that the Christchurch flight JT255 was almost ready and passengers in rows 16-32 would be called to board shortly. At this, many passengers got up and stood in a queue to board. I didn’t as I was in a row 12.

At about 7.25pm there was another announcement and the penny dropped. The Christchurch plane was to be used for the Wellington flight and the Christchurch flight might be cancelled. There was and audible ‘Oh no’ from the Christchurch passengers and a silent ‘Yippee’ from the Wellington passengers.

I can understand the economics of the Jetstar decision. The Wellington bound plane was to fly back to Auckland for a further flight to Wellington but the Christchurch flight ended in Christchurch. So it was a decision on cancelling one Christchurch flight versus cancelling two Wellington and one Auckland bound flights. What annoys me, as will become clear, is the manner of the management of the handling of the situation from the point of the decision to cancel on.

First, it is clear that the decision to switch planes and cancel Christchurch was made maybe as early as 7.00pm as I saw our luggage being removed shortly after this time. But the departure lounge staff were obviously not told this, leaving them to make false announcements. It is likely the possibility of the need to cancel a flight was known much earlier as the damaged plane had been sitting on the tarmac for sometime already and the Wellington flight had already been delayed for some time.

Secondly, the announcement of the cancellation was made and then immediately the announcer said it was maybe not cancelled and they were working on ‘a plan.’ After the Wellington plane was loaded and the gate closed it was finally confirmed the Christchurch flight was cancelled. We should all go to the luggage carousel to collect our bags before going to check in points 1 and 2. At the check in desks we would be booked on the next available flight the next day and get accommodation vouchers. Fair enough; until you think about 120 plus passenger being handled by two check in desks.

Perhaps more intelligent passengers went straight to the check in desks. I, like many other did as instructed and went to collect my bag. There wasn’t space in the check in area for the queue so it wound its way up the stairs and a second stream started building towards the baggage claim.

Thirdly, and most annoyingly, for most of the next FOUR HOURS it took for Jetstar to process the passengers flights and accommodation for the night there were at no point more than 3 check in desks working, and one very hassled supervisor. I quickly realised that being towards the end of the queue I was going to be there for some time. Each passenger was taking on average 5-10 minutes to process. During this period some Jetstar staff, obviously coming to the end of their shift, left to go home.Leaving the queue of ever more disgruntled passengers to their long stand. At no time did I see a manger from Jetstar. I suspect they knew what they had let their meagre overworked few young girls to handle. Could Jetstar management not foresee the difficulties such a small team were going to face?

I n my opinion the management, or should that be, mis-management team, of Jetstar should be either forced to stand in a queue at their counters for four hours, or better, be forced to handle the 120 plus passengers from a cancelled flight. I think there would be a lot more action in finding staff to help out the next time a flight is cancelled.

On the positive side, I applaud the young Jetstar girls left to try and sort out the mess, but more than this I applaud the passengers who were in the most part stoic and almost endlessly patient. I know those that ended up at the Grand Chancellor with me at 11.45pm are now all members of the 255 club. We have found a group of new friends. One lady of Indian origin named Angie who had been going to Christchurch for weekend, on her first visit and first flight within New Zealand, said she enjoyed the company so much she thought we should do it again. I think she might have meant the get together and chat and not the standing in the queue for four hours.

Perhaps this could be a story for another Campbell Live?

You’ll know it’s Jetstar if:
  1. You cannot board the plane unless you have the exact change.
  2. Before you took off, the stewardess tells you to fasten your Velcro.
  3. The Captain asks all the passengers to chip in a little for gas.
  4. When they pull the steps away, the plane starts rocking.
  5. The Captain yells at the ground crew to get the cows off the runway.
  6. You ask the Captain how often their planes crash and he says, “Just once.”
  7. Your life keeps flashing before your eyes.
  8. You see a man with a gun, but he’s demanding to be let off the plane.
  9. All the planes have both a bathroom and a chapel.


  1. I, too, was supposed to be on this flight to Christchurch and were conscious of Jetstar's practice of cutting people out of the check-in list. Upon hearing the announcement that Wellington passengers were to go on the Christchurch plane and the Christchurch flight would be cancelled I immediately got on the phone to Air NZ and booked seats for my colleague and I. We arrived in Chch at 10 pm, still quicker than waiting in the queue for 4 hours. Our company will get the Jetstar flight refunded via House of Travel. Or so we were told. This is probably the last booking anyone in our company will do with Jetstar, unless there's a ridiculously low fare, which is about the only thing they seem to do well.

  2. Hi Stuart,

    Thanks for the comment. Well done on your proactivity. (Is that a word?) I will be proactive in avoiding Jetstar flights except where they are soooo cheap compared to the other options.

    I don't think it is healthy to have only one option so Jetster has its place, but I don't understand the thinking of Jetstar management that seems to think this means they have to provide the minimum customer service. This is short termism that will eventually see the demise of the airline.

    At Kiwicare we see customer service as the keystone of our development as the premier pest control AND garden care manufacturer in New Zealand. My job!



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