Two Airlines Whose Customer Service Delivered Christmas Early

For the amount of flying I’ve done in my life, my airline loyalties were, until recently, fairly weak. I was more loyal to my favorite moisturizer and cod liver oil supplement than any airline. Sure, there are a few airlines I will avoid, but in general, price wins. But after a recent incident with Alaska Airlines, I’m starting to reconsider.

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For the four years we lived in Seattle, Alaska Airlines was our go-to airline. It was a no-brainer. Despite its name, Alaska is based in Seattle, so there were ton of flights everywhere. Its prices are reasonable, while its credit card and frequent flyer program are routinely lauded by personal finance magazines as being among the best. The fact that its customer service is ranked among the top by multiple parties, including Temkin Group, J.D. Power & Associates, and others, actually wasn’t that important to me at the time.

But after we returned to the Bay Area, Alaska lost its convenience factor. We started flying them less and less. I even switched my spending to that credit card that heavily advertises how you can get cash back from flights on any airline. In fact, we chose to fly Alaska on our recent Thanksgiving trip to Canadian in-laws in part because we wanted to use up our Alaska miles and start afresh in 2014.

Our return flight to San Francisco was a disaster. 30 minutes into the first leg of our trip, our plane had to return back to Calgary due to low cabin pressure. We sat around for two hours before learning that repairs were impossible and our flight was cancelled. Because it was right after the Thanksgiving holidays and because Calgary had been hit by a blizzard the day before, all alternate flights were fully booked until 6 am the next day.

This is where Alaska stepped up. First, they booked us into a pet-friendly hotel for the night. Then their gate agent who rebooked us also gave us vouchers for 3 meals (worth $48 each), a round-trip taxi ride to the hotel and back (about $130), and vouchers for 4,000 frequent flyer miles (worth between $40 and $80). That’s about $500 right there. Not bad. This made us feel much happier about the flight delays, which we knew were out of Alaska’s control.

After returning and facing the pre-Christmas work crunch, I quickly forgot about our flight issue. Then a week later, we got an e-mail from Alaska customer service apologizing for the flight delay and offering the four of us each a $300 discount code. Wow! The only way they could’ve topped that in my mind would have been if they included a 5th $300 code for our dog. Seriously, our plans have changed. Alaska once again becomes our go-to airline whenever its flights are available. Some people might say Alaska is buying my loyalty, and I agree, to an extent. It’s also the fact that not once did their agents use the holidays or the weather as an excuse for my plane/travel woes.


Another airline that delivered an early Christmas is Canadian discount airline, WestJet, though this time to more than 250 of its customers, reported Buzzfeed. On a recent flight to, coincidentally, Calgary, passengers were set in front of a ‘Santa Box’ (really, a videoconferencing kiosk of the kind that we offer and some of our customers, such as Bank of Moscow, use) to whom they could ask Santa for a Christmas gift. Scarves, Android tablets and socks were among the items that the fliers asked for. After the passengers got on, WestJet employees ran to the mall, where they purchased and wrapped up the requested gifts.

When the passengers arrived at Calgary and waited at the baggage claim, down came the wrapped gifts. Santa even showed up to give them out. Watch the five minute video produced by WestJet and hosted on YouTube by clicking on the picture below.

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(Note: I have no idea whether Alaska Airlines or WestJet are Avaya customers, though odds are yes. Nine out of ten of the world’s largest airlines use Avaya.)

While some might balk at the slick video and obvious planning behind the WestJet promotion, you can’t deny that a lot of the kids in the video seem genuinely pleased to see Santa. And the adults also appear touched by this random-y act of corporate kindness (though I didn’t notice if they showed a reaction shot of the guy who asked for the socks).

As I was the recipient, I still think Alaska’s customer service in this instance tops WestJet’s. But I’m biased. I’m curious what my readers think: are you more impressed by Alaska or WestJet’s move?

Related Articles:

Social Media Relevance @ 35,000 Feet

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Can you actually calculate the payback and Return on Investment (ROI) from Social Media marketing? I’ll go out on a limb here and say “Yes”, and will offer the following example as a bit of proof.

Does the added effort and expense of the tools to manage this additional interaction portal justify the investment in technology? More specifically, can the payback and Return on Investment (ROI) even be calculated? I’ll go out on a limb here, and say “Yes” to all of that, and will offer the following example as a proof point.

In my current position, in addition to being responsible for a good deal of content on the Avaya Podcast Network (APN) , I travel almost every week. I like to test the waters with the travel companies that I choose to do business with to measure their Social Media interactions with their customers. I tweet, mention, and give props when deserving, and I have even been known to dish out criticism, when appropriate. Personally, I can attest that it has improved the perceived level of customer satisfaction. There have even been cases where I am certain that my social media interaction helped expedite certain issues that may have otherwise fallen through the cracks, like my iPhone extra battery case that failed after about six weeks. Tweeting about that #FAIL got an immediate response back and an immediate replacement, all for just a small $3.78 handling fee for postage. Well worth the price, and it managed to get them a very nice ‘thank you tweet’ for their great customer service. The old Fletch would have just tossed the case in the drawer and chalked it up as stuff I bought that was just junk.

With Newark (EWR) as my local origination airport and a major hub airport for @United, I have the opportunity to utilize United Airlines as my primary carrier and they are one of my favorite ‘Twitter Targets.’ Why? Not only is their customer service impeccable, their responsiveness online and on the phone almost instantaneous, but they are incredibly responsive when monitoring social media interactions with their customers, and they happen to be a great Avaya customer. I noticed their attention to Social Media when they started to respond to my tweets where I was mentioning United, and it quickly became a game with me to see how long it would take for them to respond. Indicating that their Social Media tool identified me as a United customer, and one that regularly interacts.

Why? Not only is their customer service impeccable, their responsiveness online and on the phone almost instantaneous, but they are incredibly responsive when monitoring social media interactions with their customers. They also happen to be a wonderful Avaya customer using our contact center portfolio for their customer interactions. A few months ago, I noticed their attention to Social Media when they began responding to my tweets where I was mentioning @United. It quickly became a game with me to see just how long it would take for them to respond, and if the content of my tweets could expedite that interaction as a proof point that they were really listening to the social media chatter. I was also interested in seeing if their Social Media tool had identified me as a United customer that regularly interacts on social media, and if that would increase their level of interaction with me. As it turns out, United is not the only airline to closely monitor their brand on social media.

I’ll admit this little game has been somewhat of a data gathering exercise for a blog on the impact of good social media marketing, as a response to a simple tweet complimenting @AirCanada on adding USB charger ports in the seatback of every seat on the aircraft promoted this exchange:

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Surprisingly, within a few minutes, the all too familiar ‘ding’ from my smartphone notified me of a response to my Tweet. Now, while I would have expected this from United, but it seems I found that Air Canada was also socially active in monitoring their brand and had responded to my tweet with:

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Cool! Game on! And, the representative responded within 3 minutes. Not too shabby, actually. But, that could be an automated response and I wanted to test the waters a bit and see just how far they were willing to go, and how far I could push my dry humor. I sent back a response tweet to see if this was just an automated fluke, or did I stumble across a live agent with a playful sense of humor?

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Again, within three minutes what appears to be a live agent (notice the /NM at the end of the message) came back with:

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Ok, so now I am just pushing my luck, and the door of the aircraft was closing, so I needed to power down. God forbid we allowed Twitter to interfere with a $50 million aircraft. But hey, we were still at the gate, so I snuck another quickie out before the Flight Attendant spotted me, and we got moving.

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A final response from @AirCanada’s /NM, and I was on my way.

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However, I had a huge grin on my face as I had once again successfully interacted with a major corporation, and got them to respond to me as an individual, by an individual. Their response made them look like a company with a sense of feeling for their customers, and showed that interaction to anyone else that was also monitoring their brand. Best of all, it provided me with a great lesson in Social Media that I could then blog about on my flight from Calgary to Houston.

Will I switch to Air Canada as my primary carrier? No, they are a lot of fun to interact with on Twitter, but they just don’t fly the routes that I need, when I need them. Others will see this interaction, however, and it paints the Air Canada in a very positive light as one who not just interacts but connects with their customers at a much deeper and personal level. Those few moments they invested in Social Media that day will payback a hundred times over in the promotion of good will and the building of their corporate image.

And as for me, should I do see them as an option as a travel partner to Canada, I will definitely select them over the other choices, as they have made an effort to set themselves above the rest by caring about me, as an individual, even if it was only for those brief few minutes on that one day.

Can you really put a value on something like that?


As it turns out, JetBlue (@JetBlue) also has a sense of humor, and has tempted me with an offering of their famous ‘blue’ Terra Chips. 😉

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They also provided an additional proof point that Corporate America does listen in on Twitter as part of their ‘Brand Management’ initiatives. This makes Twitter a powerful voice in the web-sphere, that empowers anyone with a device that is ‘connected’.

Does your company manage their Social media presence?

Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911


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