Does Jetstar really deserve all the negativity? We ask experts

Jetstar continue to fly high, according to travel experts, but it's probably due to price not brand.
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Jetstar continue to fly high, according to travel experts, but it's probably due to price not brand.

Those in the cheap seats always make the loudest noise, they say.

The negative coverage Jetstar manages to conjure up year-in year-out is astounding - many unhappy customers wonder how on earth they stay in business? Well, quite easily it seems.

Jetstar has survived the taunts and tantrums of customers, and scathing remarks from the better-looking Air New Zealand. But words don't break bones, and the low-cost skeletal structure of the budget airline continues to soar.

Jetstar asked this passenger how many weeks pregnant she was. She wasn't.
MAARTEEN HOLL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Jetstar asked this passenger how many weeks pregnant she was. She wasn't.

JETSTAR HAS INCREASED THE MARKET

Just talk to those in the the travel industry: House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas says the "stigma" of the bruised brand isn't deterring customers.

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"The reality is...they have helped grow the New Zealand marketplace, and they've done that through some fantastic competitive pricing.

More people are using them, both holiday-makers and corporate travellers, according to the travel agency.

The airline has eve had better "on-time performance" recently, a far-cry from the teething issues apparent in the early days. In fact, more than 90 per cent of flights were arriving on time, he said.


Facebook users took exception to this Air New Zealand advert published last month.

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Not only were Jetstar poaching other airline customers, but they have enticed Kiwis who couldn't normally afford to fly, Thomas said.

The country's Travel Agency Association chief executive Andrew Olsen said Jetstar has "done a good job" of rooting itself in Kiwi soil.

"Any product or service can outlast a single negative event as long as it is not an ongoing systemic fault. I'm not aware of the issue."

'IMPASSIONED' FEEDBACK

Jetstar won't be phased by complaints.

A spokesperson said they actually like to hear when they need to do better - but acknowledged social media's megaphone effect in amplifying negativity. Giving feedback in a moment of anger may be tempting.

"Sometimes that might mean their feedback is a bit more impassioned or abrupt than in a letter or email sent after the flight," he said.

"But we don't see a problem with that – it's simply how the customer feels at the time of writing and we need to take that into consideration."

Jetstar makes a fine villain sometimes: asking non-pregnant women if they are with-child, leaving kids stranded at the airport, hauling families off their holiday flight with no explanation. Or the most villainous of them all - losing Christmas presents.

WEAK BRANDS HAVE TO REDUCE PRICE

No matter the perceptions of Jetstar's Grinch-like qualities, Kiwi flyers are still cheapskates.

A weighing-up happens in a consumer's mind when they're choosing an airline, says Evolve marketing managing director Brandon Wilcox, who's been in consulting for more than 16 years.

"Part of that will be the perceived risk because they know it's a budget airline and you get what you pay for. If you pay bugger-all then you're gonna get crap service.

"Where the price outweighs the perceived risk, then they'll go for it."

He refuted the old adage that 'any publicity's good publicity'. It's not. Jetstar is a "magnet for bad news" and it's damaging their brand, Wilcox said.

"When you have a weak brand, or a damaged brand, you have to reduce price to maintain market share."

And that works for the public - unless you also get bad service.

"If things turn to custard, they'll complain like hell on social media, and that will put other people off, " Wilcox said.

"It takes five positive experiences to balance out one negative experience."

Maybe they just need to give Jetstar another chance (or five)?

 - Stuff

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