Most airlines have a policy against recording employees, and in some cases we’ve even seen airline workers call the cops on passengers over their recording. That being said, it still happens sometimes, especially when things go crazy.
Now WestJet is under fire for specifically encouraging passengers to record employees. WestJet’s intent wasn’t bad here, though it seems they didn’t think through the implications of this, and how it would come across to employees.
Specifically, CBC News talks about a tactic that WestJet was using to solicit feedback. They asked select frequent flyers to record in-flight service aboard WestJet and also on some of their rivals, in the form of pictures and videos, which they wanted them to upload through an app. This was only something that was done with a small test group.
The way this came up was in WestJet’s internal employee forum. The flight attendant in that forum mentioned how a passenger she spoke with was “uncomfortable” about WestJet asking him to record positive experiences in business class on another airline, and negative experiences on WestJet. It seems that WestJet employees were otherwise unaware of this program, which is how the conversation came up.
Taking videos of employees directly violates WestJet’s policy, which prohibits “filming, photographing, or recording images, by any electronic means, of other guests and/or cabin crew or flight crew without the express consent of the person(s) being filmed, photographed or recorded.”
Union officials are condemning this as “unacceptable,” noting that this is also a violation of privacy rules. A member of WestJet’s research and insight team wrote the following regarding this:
“The ask was aimed at understanding the elements of their journey that stood out and/or impressed them, as well as understanding where we can do better,” wrote a member of WestJet’s research and insights team. This type of feedback is very valuable when it comes to product development and informing future decisions.”
What makes this situation especially interesting is that the union condemning the actions isn’t one actually representing WestJet. Rather, currently WestJet’s cabin crew aren’t unionized, but the union representing Air Canada, which is also wanting to represent WestJet, is speaking out:
“It certainly speaks to the culture of disrespect at the executive level of WestJet toward the people who have built the company up,” said CUPE spokesman Hugh Pouliot.
It would appear that WestJet had no ill-will here, but rather this just wasn’t a well thought out program. The airline ended this research project in March, and has no plans to bring it back, given the hot water they’re now in.