Talk about listening to the customer!

9498623Every now and then a company comes along that restores my faith in basic humanity. In this instance, it’s an airline. Yes Virginia, an airline!

As loyal Repman readers know, I despise most airlines, and have reserved a special place in hell for United, and their oh-so-unfriendly skies.

That’s what makes WestJet’s amazing holiday story well, so amazing.

Intent on surprising AND delighting passengers (talk about an oxymoron), WestJet first asked departing passengers from two different Canadian airports what they’d like for Christmas. Then, as they boarded their flights, specially-assigned WestJet ground teams in each arrival city rushed to buy the gifts. Finally, when the arriving passengers went to baggage claim, their holiday gift wishes came true (up to, and including, a wide screen TV).

You MUST watch the video at the bottom of this news article. It’s guaranteed to make you tear up.

I don’t know who devised the WestJet holiday surprise program, but she, or he, is an absolute genius. The airline not only listened to passenger wants and needs, they dipped into their own corporate coffers and made the dreams of kids from two to 92 come true. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.

This is the best, smartest and most creative campaign to come down the pike in a long, long time.
Here’s hoping each, and every, employee at WestJet is rewarded with their own special gift this holiday season. And, that judges at PR Week, the PRSA, PR News and elsewhere recognize the program accordingly.

And a tip o’ RepMan’s pilot’s cap to ex-Peppercommer Brian “Bruno” Mieth for suggesting this post.

13 thoughts on “Talk about listening to the customer!

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  2. RepMan,
    I agree that this is a brilliant program by WestJet. But in the words of Oscar Wilde, “Talent borrows, genius steals.” The Spanish carrier Spanair did a similar program two years ago.
    You could also argue that Spanair stole the idea from Dutch carrier KLM. KLM had a program in November of 2011 at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It was successful social media effort called KLM Surprise:
    The real lesson here is that innovation isn’t about creating something out of thin air (pun intended). 98% of innovation comes from taking an existing idea and creating a new twist on it. That’s where WestJet deserves major props (whoops, I did it again). The personalization and the real time aspect was brilliant.

  3. Agreed, Brian. I remember sitting alongside a pilot on a delayed United flight. He sighed when the captain announced that the flight had been canceled, and said, “Don’t blame me. I work for Continental.” United had just bought Continental.

  4. Just surprised they didn’t bring out the gifts for all their pilots & flight attendants who are sitting in first class traveling to their next port of destination first. Nothing drives me more nuts than to be an “elite” traveler with an airline yet they upgrade all their staff to first class. What a thumb in the eye … or coal in my stocking, if you will

  5. Brilliant! This reminds me of a campaign that Heineken did earlier this year where they “dared travelers to drop their existing plans and go somewhere new and exotic with the push of a button—without knowing where.” The basic idea behind both campaigns is to take something dull (going to the airport) and make it fun (getting presents!). Interesting dichotomy between the two companies (Heineken and WestJet). I can’t decide which one is more effective…

  6. Matt: Maybe re: Canadians. Keep in mind it was Canadian Geese that brought down the U.S. Air flight Sully Sullengerger miraculously landed on the Hudson River. And, Paul, I agree that, while some may find the Santa/Christmas angle a tad offensive, it works big-time in this context. The bottom-line for me is the rare show of humanity. Companies, large and small, almost always overlook the human touch.

  7. What an awesome, inspired idea. I think the key here is risk-taking. I’m sure many a wary marketing/PR professional would have countered at the brainstorm for this one and noted that not everyone celebrates Christmas. That it might offend someone, etc., etc. But when it comes to doing a kind, noble thing, our creed really doesn’t make a difference. So I’m glad they put themselves out there and put their customers first.