There’s no disputing that it’s been a turbulent run for budget airline Jetstar, pretty much from the moment they launched in New Zealand in June 2009. The PR team (one of whom I knew personally) had a busy few months trying to salvage what was meant to be a suitable contender for Air NZ, in this country’s domestic airline market.
Delays, complaints, more delays, ridiculously strict check-in times (best not to actually mention this to the counter staff, it seems Iain Stables found out the hard way) and passengers being forced to sell their family jewels just to get a flat white. In straw polls I’ve taken, it seems everyone has a bad story to tell (check the list below).
So where to from there? Would Jetstar learn from their mistakes, sort themselves out and win back this nation of flyers? Well it seems they’d rather just rely on being cheap to keep them in business, and in my opinion that’s a sure-fire way to crash and burn.
I have no problem with cheap, it’s actually a key part of how I market my business selling cheap websites that undercut everyone else in the market. And while it’s often a case of you ‘get what you pay for’ there are plenty of examples where you ‘get the same but pay less’ such as discount petrol or home brand grocery products.
But I know people get nervous when they hear the word cheap. The word “cheap” rings alarm bells and flashing red lights that a lot of people associate with poor quality, bad service and a false economy. The fact is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Great NZ companies like The Warehouse have shown you can be cheap yet still provide a good product with a reassuringly reliable backup service if anything goes wrong. Other companies like Bunnings, Mitre 10 Mega, Air NZ and Pak’n’Save have shown that cheap can be a sustainable business model that does right by the customer.
Sadly Jetstar don’t seem to have got the mix right. Sure they say they’re aggressive with their pricing policy (promising to undercut the cheapest competitor by 10%) but they’ve sacrificed too much to get there.
Here are a few examples that highlight the nasty side to being cheap and nasty (feel free to add your own experiences in the comments below).
- $1 flight debacle – Secured booking of 2 flights to Auckland and when finally (after leaping through all the hoops their confounded booking site puts in front of you) made it to the confirmation page only to be told the website had a whoopsee and my tickets were lost. After contacting Jetstar support I was told that “It was because their website was busy”. Maybe they should take a few notes from the great work Grabaseat do when it comes to offering sale fares.
- How was your flight? – Another example of the woeful systems that Jetstar run was highlighted when a friend of mine booked a flight, only to be advised closer to the time that they had no record of it in the system. The day after the ‘mystery’ flight they received a text from Jetstar asking them how their flight was. I can just imagine what their feedback was like.
- 3 minutes late – When Iain Stables showed up for a flight 3 minutes after the 30 minute check-in deadline he got more than he bargained for. After a few terse words the Jetstar worker leapt the counter and gave him a hiding leaving him bruised and concussed. Now he’s 10 minutes late and nursing a black eye.
Here are a few recent news stories to back this up even further:
- Jetstar staff member charged with assault
- Jetstar delays anger passengers
- Jetstar ad misleading
- Jetstar left high and dry
- Why I hated flying Jetstar
- Jetstar cheap airfares ironic
- Check-in rules rile passengers
- Jetstar unrepentant about leaving fans behind
I didn’t have to dig far for these stories, and only looked on one website. There’s bound to be hundreds more lurking out there, and thousands of disgruntled customers venting on Facebook or Twitter.
Seriously this is not a great look for any airline, particular one trying to wrest passengers away from their national carrier, Air NZ. Air NZ, in my opinion, is doing a fantastic job of providing a balanced offering that caters to great prices and excellent service. They are far and away my airline of choice – it has to be a lot cheaper for me to go anywhere else.
How much longer will Jetstar continue to dish out embarrassingly bad service and act like they just don’t care what anyone thinks? Hopefully they turn the corner before I fly with them to Singapore or there’ll be another bad press story to add to the growing collection.