OPINION: In travel, some factors, like the weather, are uncontrollable. But after 12 hours being messed around by Jetstar on Wednesday, it was the management of controllable factors that put them to shame.
Flying into Wellington when a severe wind warning had been issued must test the mettle of even the most experienced pilot. So when, after extreme turbulence left me sweating and clutching the armrest while staring out at the white caps of the Wellington south coast, I was grateful that our pilot aborted and started ascending.
We returned to Auckland, where hundreds of passengers were left confused, frustrated and increasingly irate with an airline which made us feel like a mere inconvenience.
I was rescheduled on to an already delayed flight due to leave at 9.05pm, leaving me hours to roam the airport. At the time I thought I was one of the lucky ones. Without checked baggage, I got straight to the front of the queue while others had to first collect their bags, then queue up.
As the day wore on and the queue failed to shrink, tempers ran high as people jostled for space and priority. At the gate, the security staff in charge of X-raying our bags copped the most flak, simply because they were the only members of staff around for anyone to talk to. Not once did a member of Jetstar make their presence known to listen, explain or even just apologise.
Instead, I sat as my iPod and iPhone batteries drained, watching dozens of flights taking off and landing, and reminding myself it would soon be my turn.
Not so: Our flight was again delayed, this time until 10pm, and at about 9.30pm an announcement advised us we would be boarding soon. The mood improved instantly as we formed an orderly queue, sharing battle stories of lives interrupted. Ten o'clock rolled around, then ten past, quarter past. But there were no further announcements and no Jetstar staff members to be seen.
It was someone checking the Jetstar website on their iPad who discovered our flight had been cancelled, and even then it took about five minutes more before the airline finally admitted over the Tannoy that due to "technical issues and inclement weather" our flight had indeed been cancelled.
Again it was back downstairs to the check-in counters where three cancelled flights combined for a queue which stretched further than the eye could see. We were told a hotel would be provided if we needed one, but the more-than-hour-long wait to get to the front of the queue was too much for many.
I live in Wellington, a city with a notorious track record for disrupted flights due to the weather. I accept that. What I could not tolerate was the lack of customer service, the lack of communication and the lack of empathy we received. Jetstar have probably lost the custom of many of those affected by the mess, myself included.
- The Dominion Post
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