WestJet airlines started its operations in February 29, 1996 with two aircrafts. By the year 2000, the aircrafts had increased to twenty one. The airline was a low-cost, short haul, charged low-fare, and moved from one point to another to serve the markets in western Canada. The company started expanding its facilities and through an initial public offer in July 1999, additional third generation aircrafts were bought and a new head office built in Calgary to serve the expanding company’s workforce (Seijts, p. 52).
WestJet faced high competition and the other airlines attempted to copy its culture and operations. The fuel costs were high and the economy of North America was growing slowly. Beddoe and his colleagues had no experience of running a scheduled airline when they started it. The airline industry was faced with the problem of dealing with absenteeism of the workers all over the country, at airports or in the air. The change in management had agitated the employees, lowered their morale and had put the culture they had built for long at a risk.
The company’s profit was shared by all employees and a share purchase program that enabled a majority of the employees to own equity in the company was in place. The profits were spread to the employees according to their salary and they would receive a cheque twice a year. The employees were highly motivated and brought out the best in them. The Customer service given to the guests was good and only a few complaints were received by the air complaints commission. The 1,700 employees had a high job and colleague’s satisfaction. They found their job experience better and their colleague’s warm, kind and willing to help at all times. Employees were checking out for possible savings and would investigate to avoid waste. All employees were humorousness and would play practical jokes on one another. The bottom up management structure and the team spirit of its staff and management energized the staffs. Values like people giving for the collective wellbeing of all began at the top and trickled downwards. For example Bell a customer service manager would help out at the super sales centre when there was a high call volume. Workers were proud of what they were doing as they made their own decisions and actually taking ownership of their jobs. Teamwork was insisted on and no unions were allowed to persist on job descriptions for their staffs. The employees had a wide discretion in their duties and the pilots would clean the cabin leading to huge savings on cleaning costs. The airline would hire staffs that were new to the airline industry and always chose individual who are passionate and have a sense of humour.
WestJet avoided the costs of a large number of supervisors and this resulted to a higher level of productivity per person. The company worked with few people per Boeing 737 aircraft compared to a typical full service airline like air Canada. The company had introduced cost cutting measures and a well planned strategy to control costs. The airline flew one type of aircraft leading to low maintenance and training costs. It offered a single class of service and kept in-flight services at a minimal. It used internet to sell tickets, operated without paper tickets, offered no frequent flyer programs, provided no meals and had no airport lounges or linkups with other airlines and would actively hedge against rising fuel costs. The cost cutting measures reduced the operations cost by half compared to those of Air Canada’s which had 16 different planes from nine different manufactures resulting to high maintenance and high training costs. WestJet opted to sell the tickets at half price and sold unrestricted tickets so as to attract people who would otherwise drive, board a bus or train or even stay at home (Seijts, p. 52).
WestJet stimulated the market with low prices and did not give room to new competitors to enter their market. The hiring period was taken to be important and job simulation and orientation into the culture, mission and values was done to the new staffs. An employee association was created to help the employees and management to keep in touch. The association also addressed the employees concerns before they turned into problems and gave them services that they might want to receive through a union. The airline stuck to its corporate culture of bottom up management style that empowered its employees. The airline improved its customer service by adding new third generation aircrafts, increased their frequency and also introduced non-stop flights to its schedule. With the hedging contracts the airline protected itself against rising fuel prices. The management team believed in open communication and honesty with its employees even in an economy that was miserable. The airline covers for the health and dental of all its employees including the part-time workers (Plunkett, p. 200).
Seijts, Gerard. Cases in organizational behavior. Chicago: Sage, 2006. Print.
Plunkett, Jack. Plunkett’s Airline, Hotel & Travel Industry Almanac. London: Plunkett Research Ltd., 2007. Print