Westjet, Because Owners Care ?

Please just ignore the name of this website, as it has nothing to do with what you are about to read, it's just a domain name that I already owned.

This page is all about my 7 year old son & his "experience" on July 22nd 2007, flying as an Unaccompanied Minor as a guest of Westjet Airlines. http://www.westjet.com/

Will (William, 7 Years Old, Nearly 8 ) left Calgary International Airport, on a Boeing 737, Sunday morning heading for his grandmother, on Vancouver Island. He was flying as an "unaccompanied minor" (called a "UM"), something he's done 8 times before with no problems or issues.
So, the plane lands in Comox, Will gets out of his seat & walks out of the plane. This is despite he's wearing a tag around his neck showing he's a "UM". Westjet's policy is that UM's should be told to sit & be the last off the plane so that a CSR (Customer Service Rep) can meet them & take them into the terminal & then stay with them until the appointed pickup person shows up, shows proper ID & signs for the UM.

So here we have the flight attendant/attendants screwing up, all they said to Will was, "thanks for flying Westjet, have a nice day". Will walked out of the plane, across the tarmac & into the terminal. He wandered around the terminal for about 20 minutes, by himself, wearing his neck tag until his grandmother shows up, they get his luggage off the conveyor & they walk out of the airport.

My wife. Lorna called Grandma about 6pm to find out how the flight was & was surprised to find out grandma hadn't been asked to show ID or sign anything or hadn't even spoke to an airline rep when she picked up Will. Grandma was late getting there & the plane was already on the ground & unloaded when she walked in to the terminal.

Lorna called Westjet & was told that Will had been "disruptive" on the flight & that the flight attendants couldn't stop him from walking off the plane. She also found out that another UM had also walked off this same flight & had been found some time later by the CSR wandering around the terminal alone. No one is saying when this other kid was found.

I called Westjet too (this is all Sunday evening) & asked for an explanation of what happened & was told that the CSR who was supposed to have met Will, would call me on Monday.

I got the call, the guy was nice & polite but the best answer he could give me was that " by the time he got to the plane, both UM's were already gone & he searched the terminal & could only find one." I asked if this was standard Westjet policy to just give up when a kid couldn't be found.

He assured me that he had notified his supervisor & that the supervisor would follow up & "notify the proper people". I'm assuming this meant Will's mother, father & grandmother who was supposed to be picking him up & failing that, I'd assume the police.

Nothing of the sort was attempted. As far as this airline was concerned, Will was missing & they just didn't give a damn. I asked if they were waiting for the milk carton to come out before they acted but humor seems as rare as common sense around this company.

I did get a call (Tuesday) from the "shift supervisor" from Comox, who wasn't working Sunday or Monday & really had no clue about what had happened. She was quite quick to lay the blame for this on the flight attendant who "shouldn't ever let a UM off a plane, even if they are kicking, screaming & biting". Her exact words & no, no-one is claiming Will or the other kid were doing any of those things.

She said that she would be making a full report & that it would head up to "higher ups" & that I would be contacted ASAP. She then asked me what would "make me happy".

I said the only things I was looking for from this was a full explanation of where their system fell apart & assurances that this wouldn't happen again to him or any other child. I said that their system had huge holes in it if three different levels could fail, at the same time. I also said that I wanted to know if these failures were due to honest mistakes or just gross incompetence. I said I could forgive mistakes but if this happened due to laziness, stupidity or apathy then I would want this employee's/s head/s on a plate.

July 25th, I was just told that the report has been sent to "Internal Security" & that was the end of it as far as I was concerned. I asked if I could contact someone in that Dept & was told "No". I asked the CSR to put a note on the file stating that I wanted to hear from someone from Security & she said that she'd make the note but they wouldn't contact me, it "wasn't my business".

She said that the airline had credited us the UM fee($50) & had even generously tossed in an extra $25 for our troubles & worries.

I don't want their damn money, I want an explanation of how my son got lost by a major airline & nobody gave a damn!!!!

If I did want their damn money, they be about 150 zero's short of what I think would be a proper value for my son's safety.

I'm eternally grateful that nothing happened to him & that he walked away from this pretty much unaware of how dangerous of a situation he was in.

I'm not going to let them sweep this under a rug like they are trying too. How many other kids has this or far, far worse happened to?

My worst fear is that if I let this drop, one day I'll pick up a newspaper & read about another Westjet UM who wasn't as fortunate as my son & was found by the wrong type people in the terminal.

So on Thursday, July 26, I emailed a letter (almost identical to what you have read so far) to Bob Cummings (Executive Vice-President, Guest Experience and Marketing) with the help of a friend who was able to track down his email address. I got a call back within a few hours from Someone who work for Bob (Megan) who said my email was the first that Bob had heard of this "incident." She assured me that they would be all over this & get to the truth ASAP.

So why did the VP of Guest Experience not know about a child that was missing for about 6 hours while in Westjet custody? A child that seems to have slipped through not one, not two but three different cracks in their UM system all in the space of 20 minutes.
Hell, as a matter of fact, Will is still probably still legally in their care due to the fact nothing has ever been signed & they have no clue as to his whereabouts.

Megan asked for a few days to get to the bottom of this & figure out where the mistakes had occurred, she assured me that they would handle this quickly & provide me with answers. We agreed that we would talk again on Tuesday, July 31. Finally I thought I was getting somewhere & that the holes in their UM system would get patched & if there was negligence, incompetence or just plane stupidity on the part of a Westjet employee, someone would be held accountable.

So with no word by 2:30 pm on the Tuesday, I call Megan for an update.

So in the last 4 days that I've/we've been sitting on pins & needles, what far reaching & profound facts have they discovered in their "no stone unturned" investigation of this incident?

Absolutely nothing!!!.

Apparently, Megan has as much pull in the company as the guy who empties the ashtrays outside the terminal, none. She's requested reports from the Comox office & the flight attendants & not a single one of them has bothered to file anything.

Either that or they are trying to sanitize the reports before telling me anything, I'm waffling on which is the truth.

I got off the phone with Megan feeling like I'd just been jerked around completely for the last 11 days.
Are they worried about making sure this doesn't happen to another kid?
Sure doesn't seem like it, they seem to be spending most of their time & effort doing damage control & feeding me a line of BS.

On Wednesday, Aug 2nd I did get a call back from Megan, now things have turned around again. Apparently, she got most of the reports yesterday & also was able to talk to me about what the Internal Security Dept has dug up so far.

Basicly, it's boiling down to the CSR who was supposed to meet Will at the plane & supposedly informed his supervisor that he couldn't find Will & then called me on the Monday, remember him?


Well apparently, the SOB was lying through his teeth.


He missed the plane all right, apparently looked for Will by himself(he told me he had 3 people searching) & then never reported it. He just flipped a coin & took a chance that Will was found by the right people.


I want his head, on a plate, delivered to Calgary.

Either that or Westjet can fly me out to Comox & I'll collect it myself.


OK, I'll settle for his ass being fired from Westjet & him never holding a job where he is responsible for the safety of children again.

So now as of Aug 3, 2007, a full 12 days after Westjet lost my son, Iíve been told Iíll have to wait till Aug 7th or so to hear anything more because every is going away for the long weekend. The shift supervisor who was on duty at the time all this happened isnít returning calls or requests for a report.


I sure wish I could turn this off in my head like that, but I guess since I donít lose children casually, Iím not handling it as well as Westjet can.


I'm tired of being a nice guy in this situation & giving them a chance to step up & show that they do care about the safety of children signed over to their care. Iíve given they every possible chance & just keep hitting stalls & delays so Iím going to try this. Maybe some public pressure will show them that their customers regard this as a serious matter too.

Want a little piece of irony?

Snipped from their site: http://c3dsp.westjet.com/guest/about/westJetMissionTemplate.jsp 
"WestJet is the official airline of the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC), a registered non-profit organization dedicated to the search for abducted and runaway children. "

Well stop losing them & that's 1/2 the battle right there!

I would like people to read this & think about what if this had been their child/grandchild/niece/nephew/neighbor/ect. Is this the type of company you want to trust while flying at 500+mph & 30,000 feet?

If you share my concern about the handling of this, please send an email to any or all of the people listed below.

Robert Cummings Executive Vice-President, Guest Experience bcummings@westjet.com 

Sean Durphy, Executive VP/CEO: sdurphy@westjet.com
Len Winzinowich, VP of Flight Operations: lwinzinowich@westjet.com
Wayne Schneider, VP Operations: wschneider@westjet.com

Or you can call & make a comment to their Guest Relations Dept 1-800-538-5696

They don't seem to be too concerned that it was only through blind luck that my son isn't now a statistic on the Missing Children Society of Canada website.


Or if you have any more info, tips or words of support, I can be reached at gregh@casemp.com





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