Editorial: The price is right

Jetstar needs to make sure its staff who make good decisions don't have weekends off.

The latest story from its book of PR nightmares was the flight from Sydney to Christchurch on Saturday that left the baggage of 60 passengers behind. The passengers were not told until they were waiting at the carousels in Christchurch to be reunited with their bags.

In explanation, a company official said the bags had been offloaded to make room after a request from the military to take special equipment that was heavier than the bags of ordinary passengers.

In a followup explanation several days later, Jetstar revealed the request was not from "the military", but "some individual military personnel" heading for Antarctica. It also transpires the bags for the other 60 passengers were taken off to "ensure the plane met weight requirements". So it was already too heavy without the additional luggage headed for the Ice.

An airline operating flights between, say, Blenheim and Wellington might be forgiven for assuming that at least some of its passengers will be day travellers not carrying any check-in luggage. An airline operating an international flight just days before Christmas should not be making any such assumptions.

The travelling public accepts that airlines have no control over weather, as happened at the weekend when fog closed Wellington Airport and disrupted dozens of flights throughout the country. The delays are frustrating, but understandable, and airlines do what they can to redirect flights and rebook stranded passengers.

But there should be no reason for intentionally leaving luggage behind, and particularly so much of it. The cumulative weight of 60 bags would be more than a tonne, which would suggest a markedly wrong planning.

A Kiwihost survey of 600 people released this month shows Jetstar was in the bottom five companies for customer service and was the only airline with a negative customer service rating.

Are the frontline staff really that bad, or are they just having to deal with a lot of bad situations created by the way the company operates?

People are still flying with Jetstar, though, which shows we are prepared to take the risk of bad service because the price is right. Shows how much we also like competition.

The Marlborough Express