Let’s not fly Jetstar

If you want to know how to complain to Jetstar (because their website doesn’t make it obvious) you need to mail your letter of complaint to:

Jetstar Customer Care
GPO Box 635

Jetstar’s customer care manager is currently Michael Mirabito.

Here’s the letter I am posting tomorrow.

Dear Jetstar,

Allow me to introduce myself. I am passenger number #Z4RC9S from JQ906 on Monday the 14th of December. You might recognise that date. It was the day your booking software crashed nationwide, causing delays of up to 90 minutes throughout your network.

I mention the date, and acknowledge the troubles your network experienced, because you might be tempted to use this circumstance as a mitigating factor with regards to my complaint. It is not an excuse, and I am not complaining about the lateness of my flights.

I have flown the competitive Townsville to Brisbane route a number of times over the last four years. On a number of these occasions I have flown with Jetstar. Many of my friends refuse to fly Jetstar. After yesterday I can understand why.

Let me tell you my story. I’ll narrate it like an objective observer in third person.

Passenger #Z4RC9S and his wife were in the car driving to the airport when they heard a radio report that Jetstar’s flights around Australia had been delayed because of a software malfunction. The passengers thought that this was completely understandable. Computers are unreliable. Airlines get delayed. This was not a major problem. An inconvenience yes. But worth complaining about? No.

The passengers entered the airport and approached the line for the check-in desk. They had not checked in online. Passenger #Z4RC9S is quite tall (around 195cm or 6’3’’ in the old measure). Passenger #Z4RC9S wanted to see if an exit row might be available. The unhelpful, rude, and abrupt lady manning the check in line informed Passenger #Z4RC9S that he and his wife must check in at the machine first. They had arrived 45 minutes before the original departure time for the flight. This was no problem. If it is the policy (which seems to contain inherent double handling and seems to waste more precious time on behalf of the passenger).

Here is another gripe – why are the queuing lanes kept unnecessarily and artificially long during off peak times when there is a gatekeeper ensuring that only passengers on particular flights are lining up. This is a waste of time.

The Passenger and his wife made their way to the counter to request an exit row. Where they met a second unhelpful, rude and abrupt Jetstar employee. This employee did not look up from her desk, did not acknowledge the request past a curt dismissal, and made no attempt at rudimentary customer service. When Passenger #Z4RC9S requested an exit row on the flight she informed him that there were none available. Without looking at the computer. Without even taking a moment to provide an iota of effort to meet the needs of the customer.

When the passengers entered the plane carrying their hand luggage (four bulky items and one purse) they were rudely informed that hand luggage policies dictate four items only. When did a small handbag become hand luggage? It is not overhead luggage. It is a purse. The information, at this stage of the journey, was entirely irrelevant and delivered in a sneering, and rude, manner.

When the passengers finally embarked and were seated in their seats – in row 15 (one seat behind the exit rows) and the doors were closing – they noticed five available exit seats (out of 12). Five out of twelve?

The unhelpful flight attendant then picked other passengers from the row behind the Passenger #Z4RC9S as if to add insult to injury.

I can understand that stress levels may have been high due to the delay – but it is on these occasions that your staff should be rising to new heights of customer service – not sinking to new lows. Every interaction we had with staff on that fateful morning was negative. This was poor beyond description.

Bad customer service will cost you customers in the long run.

I’ve introduced myself by my number because it’s clear that Jetstar’s customer service policy is to view travellers as cattle rather than as people. Perhaps, in order for my message to be clearer, I should refer to myself as $119. That’s what my flight cost. On a conservative estimate based on my flying patterns over the last three years, and assuming I live to the age of 80, the loss of my six potential flights with you per year at an average cost of $119, will cost you $39,000 directly. Double that because I’m married and fly with my wife. That’s $78,000 in lost bookings over my lifetime. Sure, you’ll find some other schmuck to fill my seat with… but the indirect impact has the potential to be far greater.

Let me give you a little more background about myself – and why you should care about me, and indeed about all of your passengers. I work in PR in the tourism industry – hosting travel writers and dealing daily with members of the media. We talk about airlines and horror stories all the time. But I am not special. One thing I know from my role in PR is that bad news travels fast. This is why you should care about your passengers.

I have 658 friends on Facebook. Many of them are journalists. Many of them travel regularly. Today, after yesterday’s experience, my status reads “will never fly Jetstar again”. I will also post this complaint letter on my blog. It’s not a big blog. But it gets between 500 and 600 unique visitors a week. It will no doubt get lots of hits from people searching for similar tales of airline woes in coming years. It will be a small black mark against your name in cyberspace – where there are many similar small black marks against your name. At some stage, Jetstar, you will need to do something about this.

Here’s the thing Jetstar – word of mouth matters. And because of my experience yesterday, and the shared experience of many other passengers, you are suffering. If I convince just fifteen friends and family members who fly as regularly as I do not to fly with you on the Brisbane to Townsville route (let alone all the other routes they might fly) the cost, using the same figures as above, will be over $1,000,000. Just because your staff are rudely incompetent.

This is clearly not an isolated incident – as I was writing this letter I read a story featured on the SMH website about poor customer service on the Sydney to Gold Coast route. This habitual interpersonal incompetence will cost you money.

Sure, you have cheap flights. You’ll always have that corner of the market. Those who can’t afford to be discerning. But you’ll never be the airline that has people saying “if I won the lotto tomorrow I’d still fly Jetstar”. The bottom of the market probably won’t grow. Especially with the economy improving.


Nathan Campbell