WestJet CEO apologizes for asking passengers to film flight attendants at work

MONTREAL _ The head of WestJet Airlines Inc. has apologized for asking some of its frequent flyers to videotape the service provided by its own flight attendants and those of its chief competitor.

The Calgary-based airline says it asked 14 customers over a seven-day period to input the footage through an app so it could monitor the service they most like.

But the practice has angered WestJet flight attendants who complain it is an invasion of their privacy, against the airline’s own rules and not the practice of a caring employer.

Chief executive Ed Sims told reporters that the airline didn’t intend anger flight attendants, who are in the midst of a union drive.

Following WestJet’s annual meeting in Calgary, he apologized to any flight attendants who were upset or offended by the action.

Sims says the practice is relatively common and was meant to help WestJet build a library of the service that means most to passengers.

He says it’s not something the airline intends to repeat.

Hugh Pouilot of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents Air Canada flight attendants and is trying to organize WestJet, says Sims only apologized for getting caught.

He says videotaping employees is disrespectful and a massive breach of privacy.

Getting customers to effectively spy on employees signals a culture shift at the airline which has prided itself on employees being owners and gaining profit sharing, Pouilot says.

Air Canada says its policies request that customers refrain from filming or photographing crews when asked, adding that it doesn’t do so as part of its customer service programs.

WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart says no customers provided video of any WestJet employees or inflight experiences.

The airline warned on Tuesday that its bookings have slowed as passengers respond to the threat of a potential labour disruption from pilots who are trying to negotiate their first collective agreement.