there are balls and they are in courts

I PROMISE that I’ll recap the amazing time we had in Ireland soon – but for now, here’s the letter I’m sending to Westjet as soon as they give me a method of communication that isn’t a 2000-character-limited text box on their website.

Hello, Westjet.

We’ve had quite an adventure over the last 48 hours. Now, I’m a reasonable person. I know deep down that not everything that happened was your fault – for example, you don’t control the weather (or do you) or the faulty power grid of a hotel in Swords – but you *are* the direct cause of everything that happened. Even that’s not really fair, but since we just travelled for 48 hours, I’m not really feeling all that fair. Exhausted, yes. Super sick, totally. Still feeling the aftermath of 8 pressure changes with a sinus cold, definitely.

So, here’s the situation. We were due to return from Dublin on Friday, September 30th. We had an 8:30am (all times local) flight from DUB to YYT, a brief stopover in St. John’s, into Toronto around 2pm, then off to Vancouver after a 2-hour layover. We were due to be home around 6:30pm on Friday evening.

That didn’t happen.

We arrived at DUB at 6am on the 30th to learn that our flight had been cancelled. Well, that sucks. Fortunately, we were given a hotel voucher and whisked off to the Clayton Hotel in nearby Swords, and told to call Westjet after 8am to find out what our new flight situation would be. Okay, great. We got a room – it really sucked, but that’s (probably) not your fault – and settled in for a long day of waiting. I have a sinus cold, so I was grateful for the chance to rest. Also, there’s nothing to do in Swords and I didn’t really feel like paying €70 to get to Dublin and back – especially after we had been given our new departure time of 3:50. In the morning. I didn’t even know planes worked at that time.

This next part is totally not your fault, but it still happened: while at the hotel, the power went out for over two hours during the dinner rush. This backed the kitchen up to the point where they were no longer serving guests, but would still be closing the kitchen at the usual time of 10pm. Never mind that there were over a hundred people looking for dinner, or that the only other option was a drive-thru pizza place across the street, or that only one of the three restaurants in the hotel would accept the meal vouchers we had been given – nope, we close at 10 and that’s that. After pleading our case to the bar manager, she got the coffee bar to agree to accept our vouchers – so we could eat (insufficiently) microwaved food served by confused baristas. Okay, you do what you have to do.

Also, the meal vouchers we were given had times on them, so our lunch voucher wasn’t honoured. We had to pay cash for our meal, which, in retrospect, I was glad to do because it was the only meal I would get for the next 36 hours.

We gathered our things and prepared to face our new reality: a 0350 flight to St. John’s with a 7.5 hour layover, then a flight to Toronto with 45 minutes before our departure for Vancouver, getting us home at 5pm on Saturday, October 1st. Have you ever been to the St. John’s airport? Have you ever been STUCK there? I don’t recommend it. It is basically ill-equipped for human life: outrageously expensive and extremely minimal food options, one bathroom at the ass-end of the terminal, 3 power outlets for the entire airport, chairs made of Cold War-era concrete, and nothing whatsoever to do. We landed before 5am, so it’s not like we could just hop into the city for food. Also, see above re: sick and tired and had been travelling for over 24 hours at that point.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to Dublin. We checked in at the Westjet counter because we needed new tickets issued. I asked about our upgrades – you see, because I am sick and tired and feeling like hell, I had opted to upgrade our seats to Plus in addition to paying for our checked bag. Was there any chance the upgrade could be honoured? The Westjet employee made a phone call and poked at her computer, then seemed to be flustered about something. She abruptly handed us our boarding passes, said she wasn’t able to do anything (eerily accurate), and shooed us off.

It wasn’t until we were about to board the plane when I noticed what had set her off: instead of a 45-minute turn around in Toronto, we were now booked onto a 10:00pm flight to Vancouver: an 8-hour layover in Toronto. After our 7.5-hour layover in St. John’s. Oh, HELL NO.

In tears, I approached the employee who had checked us in to ask why this change had been made and why we weren’t told. She repeated that she couldn’t do anything, said to ask someone else, then turned back to her conversation with her co-worker. Awesome. Frustrated and sensibly dreading the idea of sitting in airports for over 15 hours, I did something no modern technophile would volunteer to do: I used my iPhone as a telephone and called Westjet’s 1-800 for help.

I reached a gentleman who was said he could fix our flights. Great! I was on the phone with him as I boarded the plane, and literally as I sat down in my newly assigned seat (which was not only not the seat I had paid for, but was not in the same row as my husband), he gave me my new itinerary: the 7.5-hour layover in St. John’s couldn’t be helped, but I was back on the 3pm flight out of Toronto instead of the 10pm. Excellent. Still far from our original homecoming, but better.

Oh, how I foolishly believed!

We arrived in St. John’s ridiculously early, made our way through customs, then joined the huge queue at the Westjet counter to check our bag and get our new, new boarding passes. We explained that we were now on our third homeward itinerary, and asked about our upgrades. The Westjetter scanned our info, got our reservation number, and .. nothing.

Even though I had spoke with a Westjet employee on the phone, even though he told he it had all been sorted, even though I had a friggin’ EMAIL showing that all was good, there was no record of us in the computer: our entire reservation had been DELETED. Gone. We weren’t there. Oops.

I wish I had gotten the name of the lady who helped us in St. John’s, because she was awesome. She made some phone calls and sorted out what had happened: we had been moved to the 10pm flight to Vancouver because our original flight to Toronto – due to depart at 12:10pm – had been delayed to 5:35pm.

She quickly deduced that we were NOT okay with a 12-hour layover in St. John’s, and did some shuffling. We were moved to a 1:40 flight to Toronto, then a 6pm flight to Vancouver. Again, not perfect – perfect would have been us at home for 12 hours at this point – but she did what she could, and we were grateful. Sure, we had been marked as no-show for our Toronto-Vancouver flight the night before – apparently your system doesn’t mark cancellations all the way through a reservation (what reservation, amirite?) – so we had a black mark next to our names, or whatever happens when you decide to not show up for your flight. I don’t know. I was a good student, so this is giving me anxiety.

Oh, and by the way, the flight to Toronto stops in Halifax. No one told us this; we learned we were headed to a 5th timezone that day when our flight was finally called (after 7.5 hours. I can’t stress that enough.). Okay, fine. Let’s get on with it, already.

We didn’t have to deplane in Halifax, but some of the people we travelled with had to change seats. We thought this was odd. Then it went from odd to infuriating: you had somehow double-booked seats, and took seats from passengers to transport crew from one place to another. That’s bad enough, but the seats you reassigned to crew were seats originally assigned to people coming back from Dublin on the cancelled flight. Does that seem fair to you? They tried to get the passengers to leave their seats and go “wait and see” if they’d be able to find room for them, to which they rightfully said “fuck no”. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from them soon. It was a huge dick move on your part, and sorting it out took forever. Our “brief stop in Halifax” lasted well over an hour. We (and others in our situation) were starting to get panicky: would we make our Vancouver flight in time?

We did, with less than 20 minutes to spare. Our flight from Toronto to Vancouver went off without a hitch, which was nice. We were definitely expecting the opposite, given everything that had happened so far.

Our flight landed in Vancouver at 8:05pm, 26 hours and 30 minutes later than our original arrival time, and after 48 hours of travel.

It was one of the worst travel experiences we’ve ever had, and definitely the worst with Westjet. From the original cancellation-with-no-notice to the useless and indifferent Dublin Westjetter who couldn’t be bothered with our concerns, to the telephone agent to “fixed” our issues and the complete deletion of our reservation, to the surprise Halifax stop and the accompanying seating troubles, to the paid upgrades we never got to use – it was all awful. It was a terrible, exhausting end to what had been an excellent time in Dublin, which has tainted the entire experience.

We’ve been loyal Westjetter for years, but this ordeal has really soured us to the idea of using Westjet again. The agent in St. John’s recommended we contact you with the details of what happened, in the hopes that something that can be done to help us keep Westjet at the top of our options when travelling in the future.

The ball’s in your court, Westjet.

One thought on “there are balls and they are in courts

  1. Please let us know what their response is!! Sounds like a horrible ordeal. I’ve never had to travel for more than 24 hours at one time, and that was too long.

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