7 More Reasons WestJet is Basically the Mr. Rogers of Canadian Airlines

I’m a total fangirl for great marketing campaigns and above-and-beyond customer service.

(Yes, actually.)

So, no surprise, I was really into it when this video of WestJet’s epic Christmas miracle went viral.


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(If that made you shed a holiday tear or two, it’s cool. The internet feels the same way.)

Part of the appeal of this video was how genuine it was. This was a good company doing a good thing, and it got peoples’ attention…including mine.

But WestJet should have had our attention a long time ago. Why? Because they’re basically the Mr. Rogers of Canadian airlines. Seriously.

Here are 7 stories/facts to back that up.  (Note: I have no affiliation with WestJet. Or with Mr. Rogers, for that matter. Zero. I’m just being a total fangirl here.)

1) WestJet employees helped a customer grieve the loss of his family dog.

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If you’ve ever lost a pet, you can relate to the heartbreak this blogger felt when his 7 year old family dog, Hunter, passed away unexpectedly last month. He bought a ticket for the first flight he could find–a 10 am West Jet departure–and headed to the airport. When he got there at 7:55 am, he realized there was an 8:15 flight about to leave. Twenty minutes. Never gonna happen, right?

That’s when things got amazing.

One of the WestJet check-in people must have spotted me. She immediately came from behind the counter and asked if I’m OK or needed help. I told her my dog had just died and I needed to just get home as soon as possible. I remember I had tears at this point. She then did the one thing for me I needed most at this point.  She gave me a big hug of support. She then told me I will be on the 8:15 flight. She called the gate and told them to hold the flight as they had a family emergency coming, rebooked me onto the flight seating me in the front row, and escorted me to the front of the security line. With a final hug she wished me well and sent me towards the flight.

You guys. You guys. I’m melting right now. How sweet is that?

Oh, and this wasn’t just one nice lady. It gets better.

During the flight I was trying to hold myself together as I had a bit of travel to do as yet.  One of the flight attendants noticed my tears, offered me some kleenex and asked if it was allergies. Again I explained my dog had just died. Immediately he stopped what he was doing and spent the next 10  minutes with me (it was only a 40 minute flight so that’s a lot of time!) The flight attendant and I shared stories and pictures. It was nice to be able to talk about Hunter with someone.

He goes on to say that  it only took him only 3 hours to get from that first Ottawa airport encounter to his doorstep in Kitchener. I live in Ottawa, and my family (including our dog, Ella) lives in Kitchener, so I know how fast that kind of travel time is. It’s fast.

I can only imagine how devestating and “I NEED TO GET HOME NOW NOW NOW” it would be if Ella passed away suddenly. I’m sure that compassion and solid service meant the world to this guy.

2) WestJet found a customer’s lost cat…then took her to a vet and flew her home for free.

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When WestJet employees found Willow, a customer’s missing cat, her grieving owner had already left the airport with a heavy heart.  The WestJet response? Totally spot on.

1) They contacted the owner, and gave her updates every step of the way.
2) They brought the cat to a vet immediately to make sure she was okay.
3) They flew the cat home free of charge.
4) When the story got press, they made sure to send out a tweet acknowledging an Air Canada agent who helped to coax the cat out.

The lost cat was not WestJet’s fault.  The kennel was not properly secured, and two cats escaped “after ground handlers picked up their kennel and the bottom fell out of it.” They had no obligation here, not really.  But they did everything they could anyways. Why? Because they’re awesome.

3) Not a cat person? Don’t worry. WestJet helps find missing kids, too.

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WestJet has a partnership with the Missing Children Society of Canada. That means they cover the flights of investigators traveling to find lost kids. It means they reunite families free of charge. It means they help with fundraising events.

And, it means that (like many MCSC partners) they have their employees out in the field looking for missing children. WestJet employees are active users of the CodeSearch app:

[Codesearch] allows MCSC the ability, with the help of local law enforcement, to send out geo-targeted alerts to individuals in the area where a child has gone missing or is expected to be located. Along with notifications, CodeSearch participants can also provide local expertise and resources.

Since abductors are likely to come to airports after taking a child, this kind of front line action is a big deal. They even had a month long campaign in 2011 called Give hope. Take action. where they “invited guests to write messages of hope to families of missing children.” Gold star, WestJet, gold star.

4) WestJet has a partnership with Disney Vacations. That means they have a freakin’ Mickey Mouse plane. Yeah.

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Just last week, WestJet released its new Disney plane, which features a handpainted Mickey Mouse on either side.

As an Ottawa tour guide, my bosses constantly reference Disney Vacations for its f’amazing customer service and general attitude…so the fact they’re trusting the airline to deliver the magic of Disney is serious business. WestJet even had a Mickey Mouse themed unvieling for staff, which is about the coolest internal marketing event I’ve seen ever.


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Also, they serve Disney-shaped cookies on board, so you’re welcome.

5) WestJet provides free flights for sick kids and families in need.

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From donating flights to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, to providing the David Foster Foundation with transportation to offsite medical care, WestJet is there for sick families and kids.

To me, this is not just solid corporate philanthropy–it’s also knowing and understanding customer values.  In Canada, where we so value our universal healthcare, it’s amazing to see a company like this stepping in and doing their part to make sure that a sick kid never, ever means unecessary family expenses.

6) What, an airline with an environmental commitment? Really?

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Yep. Obviously, transportation and environmentalism are never going to be best friends, but WestJet is certainly doing what it can. Specifically:

  • They invest in fuel-efficient jet aircraft.
  • They invest in technology and procedures that enable us to maximize operating efficiency and safety.
  • They invest in infrastructure to mitigate the environmental footprint of their ground operations.
  • They work in good faith with government agencies and regulators to develop rules and policies that further drive our operating efficiency and our ability to grow sustainably.

If that sounds vague, check out the technlogy they’re rocking: a lithium polymer-powered baggage tug, blended winglets, and one of the continent’s youngest and most fuel-efficient fleets.  Their Corporate offices in Calgary are even designed with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System in mind. If you want to fly green(er), this is probably your best bet.

7) They treat their employees right.

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As this Toronto Star article details, WestJet’s great customer treatment can be traced back to great employee treatment.  Some highlights?

  • They call their employees “Westjetters.” Their HR department is referred to as “People.” (You know who else talks to/about their workers that way? Google. And who doesn’t want to work for Google?)
  • Employees are also called “owners,” thanks to WestJet’s generous profit-sharing program. Over 85% of employees own shares in the company, and WestJet matches employee stock one for one.
  • Front liners are given the freedom and trust to go the extra mile (according to one employee: “If there’s a guest coming in on a flight, and I see that we have an earlier flight going through, I can use my empowerment to see if I can find them something earlier.”)

Also…I mentioned the Mickey Mouse plane launch party, right? #swag

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So, yeah. That viral video is pretty great. But consistently awesome corporate ethics are even better.

Looks like we could all learn a thing or two…from both Mr. Rogers and WestJet.

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Five Reasons I’m Optimistic About the Future of Music

For some reason, I don’t blog about music much. I don’t know why. My other writing gig is all about music , and I just finished interning at a record label. I’m obsessed with my instruments. I have even pitched and completed musical multimedia projects for university history classes–twice–in lieu of old fashioned essays.

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The current state of my apartment’s blackboard wall.

Recently, I have sensed a “lost cause” attitude when people talk about the music biz. Money just isn’t flowing the same way, to the same people, or for the same reasons it used to.

In this case, that might be a good thing.

I offer you five (admittedly optimistic) reasons I’m excited about where music is heading…artistically, ethically, and even economically. Seriously. I only wish I could say the same thing about writing and journalism.

1) Fans and artists take control.

Some people are complaining about how the music industry is going, mainly because the “industry” part is becoming  less and less relevant. The success of artists like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis has confirmed what a lot of us 21st century kids have known for a long time–technology is changing the game, and musicians who are genuine and business savvy shouldn’t need to answer to anyone but their fans.

How is the game changing? It looks something like this:


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Maybe I’m being naive, but even though I would love to work in music, this doesn’t scare me. It excites me. Paper pushers, marketers, and managers will of course remain important–Amanda Palmer’s success came from her wide fan base, much of which was acquired while she was signed to a record label. I know how much blood, sweat, tears (and luck) go into promotions. That manpower is valuable, and will stay valuable. But as the umbrella “record label” organizations become less relevant, people will partner up more independently; artists will begin hiring consultants, ad agencies, designers and agents themselves.  This will put musicians/producers in charge of their art rather than just requiring them to be someone else’s product. Game changing time.

2) An access-based economy.

With the internet and streaming sites, music itself is now less of a product, more of a service; not about ownership, but about access. That doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to pay, it means they aren’t willing to pay just to own things. The millennial generation are not as interested in ownership as previous generations.  Instead, they are interested in renting, streaming, experiencing, and/or consuming.  So yeah, buying a CD or even downloading an mp3 is less and less appealing…streaming on YouTube, Songza, Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, and other websites is on the rise.

Streaming services like Spotify and Rdio are particularly fantastic. With these services, listeners pay a monthly fee (similar to Netflix) or in some cases just sit through a few ads, in exchange for access to a massive library of all the music they could want. Users can even download the songs they like to their mobile devices for offline listening and take them on the road. It’s portable music on demand. Not only that, but these services use ad revenue and membership fees to pay artists royalties for song plays. Other ways artists can make money? Becoming a YouTube partner (thereby sharing in advertising revenue, though in my opinion YouTube needs to up the royalties it pays), starting a Kickstarter project, or organizing fan patronage through a site like Patreon.

3) Sustainable printing and touring.

Because people are purchasing access more than anything, less stuff has to be made. The only product that seems to be selling more these days are vinyl records, because they’re the only thing that genuinely sound better than an mp3. So what products are being made? Essentially we’re whittling it down to LPs and their packaging, t-shirts, and promotional materials (stickers, posters, etc).

Compared to before, that’s not much.  You’re welcome, trees.

Moreover, smart decisions can be made with what is being produced.  While pressing new vinyl isn’t a particularly “green” call, smart packaging can make an impact. As an intern, I discovered (and fell in love with) PURE labels. The stickers they print are gorgeous and affordable…not to mention 100% tree-free with a sustainable adhesive (‘sup, technology). The availability of products like these, along with fair trade clothing options, will help with the positive impact of lowered production.

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With the focus on live performance (in Canada, the live music industry just had a record breaking year), of course, comes the question of a tour’s carbon footprint.  The good news is that artists will have a lot more power over the decisions made with stage performance than they did when merchandise production was king. Musicians like K.T. Tunstall, Radiohead and Pearl Jam are among those who actively use eco-friendly touring options, and organizations like Julie’s Bicycle have heavily researched sustainability in the live music industry.  For more optimism, check out this list of Rolling Stone Magazine’s “15 most eco-friendly artists”: www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/the-15-most-eco-friendly-rockers-20101216/

4) Music sampling meets international development.

Pop music sampling, you have destroyed enough 80s songs. Seriously. Time to get creative.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if ethnomusicologists hooked up popular artists with musicians in poorer areas of the world for some sweet collaborations. Organizations like Smithsonian Folkways record and distribute music from communities around the world, and pay extensive royalties to artists for these works. An example?  All the royalties from Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music, and Interfaith Harmony in Uganda go straight to an education fund for children in the community where the music was recorded. If a commercial or film featured a song from that album, or an artist sampled from it (and paid royalties), that would mean a great deal for the community.

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With African music-inspired indie artists like Vampire Weekend, rapper J. Cole’s sample of music from Guinea, and up-and-coming success of A Tribe Called Red, there seems to be a market for a more worldly sound. I would like to see popular artists looking for an exotic beat, new style or even just a choir in the background consider what those royalties and exposure could mean to a disadvantaged community.

5) Grassroots charity links.

Big musicians like U2, Springsteen, and Neil Young have been instrumental (…hah. pun.) in connecting the star power of musicians with charitable and fundraising ventures.  This is awesome. However, a lot of those projects have been connected with BIG national organizations.  While these are no doubt valuable, many of today’s artists are tapping into the power of connecting directly with communities and grassroots projects.

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Because live performance (read: going on tour) is basically where the paycheck is coming from for musicians these days, two things are more possible than ever.  Firstly, artists have been able to catch and affect their fans literally in their hometowns by connecting with local charities and encouraging activism.  Secondly, being on the road make it far easier for artists to spread the word about important issues and ask for participation from their crowd.  Take the band Fun., who created The Ally Coalition. They not only donate a dollar off each ticket sold to local LGBT and equality groups, they also set up an “Equality Village” at every gig where people can declare their support for the cause. Sheryl Crow has done the same by creating an “Eco-Village” wherever she performs, and like the band Phish (who are super philanthropic), she encourages carpooling to her shows. The bottom line is that if you are in a lot of cities, you can impact a lot of cities, individuals, and grassroots organizations.