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Airline Spends Millions To Get Guests Home For Christmas

Neither rain, nor hail, nor broken down car could stop airline employee

eTN Staff Writer  Dec 29, 2008

CALGARY - The most severe and widespread winter weather across Canada in nearly 40 years wreaked havoc with travel coast to coast, causing numerous airport closures and record numbers of flights delays and cancellations.

There are hundreds of stories of WestJetters who went the extra mile during this period, including one employee who ran 10 kilometers to work in minus 20 degree weather after his car broke down, and countless office staff who manned check-in counters, baggage belts, and other locations.

WestJet Airlines today released information regarding the efforts made by its employees to get as many guests as possible home for Christmas during this historic and unprecedented holiday travel season. In total, WestJet has spent approximately $2 million in the past six days to care for guests stranded across the country.

Ken McKenzie, WestJet's executive vice president, operations, commented, "This week was WestJet's finest hour, despite the delays and cancellations. We provided for our guests in their time of need and truly demonstrated WestJet's caring attitude. This was an unprecedented situation and we responded in an unprecedented way."

"Airline tariffs do not require airlines to provide meal vouchers or hotel accommodations if the flight cancellation is the result of inclement weather," Mr. McKenzie explained. "At WestJet, we believe it's important to do the right thing. During this situation of severe weather, uncertainty and the time of year, the right thing was for us to provide guest relief in the form of meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, and transfers. It is our belief that we are the only airline in Canada to provide this level of service to its guests."

"Operating safely was and continues to be our first priority," continued Mr. McKenzie. "It comes down to lots of smart, resourceful, and selfless people stepping forward to keep our planes flying. As an example, our airport and procurement teams were able to secure an adequate supply of de-icing fluid which allowed us to continue operations in and out of Vancouver."

At one point in time, in the wake of the severe weather, WestJet was faced with as many as 4,500 guests who would not have made it home in time for Christmas if the airline did not demonstrate its can-do attitude.

"We regret we were unable to get this number down to zero," lamented Ken McKenzie. Despite our best efforts, 130 guests remained to be flown, which is the equivalent of one flight, as of December 25."

Here is a breakdown of what WestJet spent between December 20 and today, in an effort to get their guests home.

- More than 6,000 hotel rooms were provided free of charge to stranded
guests at a cost of more than US$500,000
- More than 25,000 meal vouchers were provided to guests in airports at
a cost of approximately US$220,000
- US$250,000 on ground transportation including taxis and chartered buses
- Aircraft were chartered from third-party airlines at a cost of
approximately US$325,000 to assist in clearing the backlog of stranded

"I am enormously proud of WestJetters for their many acts of selflessness to help our guests," said WestJet president and chief executive officer Sean Durfy. "When you see executive vice presidents flying aircraft on Christmas Day and so many others taking time away from their own family celebrations, you know you have a team of people who are completely focused on caring for our guests."

Neither rain, nor hail, nor broken down car could stop airline employee
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