Chapter 6Air Canada versus WestJet

I travel around the world speaking to audiences about social media, which means I live in airports and hotels. Oversized carry-on suitcases make all my pet peeve lists, and I know which airlines and which planes have the best seats and where. Most of my flights come out of Canada, from Toronto Pearson Airport, where two Canadian airlines battle it out for loyalty: WestJet and Air Canada.

I started out an Air Canada fan. It had a great loyalty program, which meant all my flying time brought me the option of a comfy lounge for long stopovers and lots of seat upgrade points. With a lot of travel, comes a lot of changes—time zones, food, beds, and so on—and keeping airlines steady meant at least the getting there and getting home part could remain predictable. And anything predictable on the road is worth a ton. Within a year, I'd reached Super Elite status and was a loyal customer. Well done, Air Canada. Well done.

And then things began to slip. With each interaction, my pulse as a customer plummeted, leaving me open to competition. I moved from the ecstatic customer category to being wide open to Air Canada competitors. Over the past two years, as the airline was steadily losing my loyalty, I've actually started keeping a running tally of flights we've booked on WestJet. And trust me, two years of flights, mostly business class, are adding up. So far we're at $15,000 in five months.

First, there was Air Canada's manager of corporate communications, ...

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