WestJet Apologizes For Asking Passengers To Record Employees

Filed Under: Other Airlines

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.

  1. I’m wondering, what is your “policy” on taking photos of the crew, e.g. during boarding or meal service? It’s obvious they are in these photos, sometimes by chance, but still. Do you ask for any kind of permission or just follow common sense?

  2. Hello from WestJet!

    Thank you for your recent participation in our WestJet Plus Experience survey. We truly appreciate your perspective and feedback.

    In the survey, you indicated that you have a flight in March or April 2018 with either WestJet or Air Canada/Air Canada rouge whereby you booked a Plus, Business Class, or premium economy fare. Is this flight on or after March 20, 2018?

    If so, are you still interested in sharing your feedback on this particular flight, using a free app called Experience Fellow? As a reminder, participation would require you to download the free Experience Fellow app and then record specific moments of your airport or in-flight experience by posting a few comments, taking a picture, and/or recording a short video. We are interested in your experience at any point in your journey, in particular the in-flight experience. If you are selected for this project and if you upload at least 10 moments during this flight you will be taking, you will be awarded with a $100 MasterCard gift card.

    If are you still interested, please reply to this email with the following information:

    · Date of this particular flight (whereby you booked a WestJet Plus, Air Canada Business Class, or Premium rouge fare)
    · Where you are flying from on this particular flight
    · Where you are flying to on this particular flight

    Please note that you will need to download a free app called Experience Fellow to be able to participate in this project.

    NOTE: Depending on the level of interest, we may not be able to select everyone who is interested in participating.

    Once we hear back from you and if you are selected as one of the participants, we will follow up, by email, with the instructions on how to access this project.

    Kind regards,
    WestJet Research and Insights Team

  3. Seems like a smart idea on the part of WestJet as they work towards building a premium cabin experience. Many frequent flyers choose Air Canada over WestJet because of things like on time performance, frequent flyer perks (i.e. lounge access, priority security and seating, etc.) especially with the fares between popular routes like Toronto to Vancouver being about the same. Experience wise, WestJet and Air Canada are similar, the only notable exception is the free booze they pass out in economy within the triangle (Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal) but that won’t win my loyalty over time.

    If WestJet is sincere about improving the quality of their products then there is certainly a lot they can learn from their domestic rivals like Air Canada and United who know how to treat their frequent travellers well.

    While photos can be a useful ethnographic/market research tool, I suspect a quick search of instagram and Google images could reveal those things without violating guest privacy. Ideally they should have focused on creating short pointed surveys (i.e. 1-3 questions in length) that flyers could answer in a minute that would allow the airline to put their finger on the pulse of the competition.

  4. Union officials are condemning this as “unacceptable,” noting that this is also a violation of privacy rules.

    All Lunacy, in Canada and the USA.

    These places are PUBLIC places. You have NO EXPECTATION of privacy in the public square.

    More hysteria.

  5. @Fed Up Being on-board a privately-owned airplane is different from walking down the street. An airline can set their own rules of conduct for their own property.

    That said.. I’m guessing this initiative was the bright idea of some new hire in the marketing department who doesn’t know much about aviation and flies rarely.

  6. Why would WestJet sabotage their own company? “about WestJet asking him to record positive experiences in business class on another airline, and negative experiences on WestJet.” Strange.

  7. @Stanley, probably just worded weirdly and not thought through, but I doubt it was any malice meant.

    I actually think it’s a good idea, and I don’t understand why the flight attendants are upset? If they’re following the rules, and doing their jobs correctly what do they have to hide? Not to mention, as someone above posted, its in public and there is no reason to assume privacy.

  8. If I see either an airline employee or passenger seriously misbehaving, you bet your butt I’m going to record it. This is really the only way incidents like the assault on Dr. Dao can be properly publicized and discouraged in the future.

  9. @Abe. Yup. I hear you. You are right. Just checking to make sure I was not reading it wrong, haha. It is very true. It could be something positive, but the flight crew won the battle.

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