The Jetstar Black Market

[Cross posted at GameTheorist] As I write this I am sitting on a Jetstar flight; the only airline to travel direct from our holiday destination to Melbourne. Suffice it to say, this is an incredibly awful flight. Even more so than the absolutely zero dollars in savings we got because we pretty much had no choice but to take it.

I’ll start with the obvious, the lack of assigned seating. Now I can imagine a world in which no assigned seating might make sense. If there is a commuter flight with mostly lone travelers, they will get on the plane and sit in the nearest available seat. It probably means that you can load people on to a plane quicker.

But for a holiday destination with mostly families traveling, the whole thing is a disaster. There is no appreciable saving in time because the large chunks of families scramble to get seats close to their children. Now I had fantasised about not doing this, going to the back of the queue and being separated from our children for the whole flight; leaving them as some other sap’s problem. Sadly, the issue is that in musical chairs I would likely end up sitting next to someone else’s children and that was a lottery I was not willing to play.

Anyhow, we had a ‘prized’ orange pass which meant that we would be first to board — being with kids got us that. It was clearly better than the blue pass or worse something called the silver pass (I do not know who you would have had to offend to get stuck with one of those). But, if you had noticed my earlier foreboding, the ‘prized’ orange pass was only prized in the sense that there were a couple of people with the other passes. Actually, from a scarcity (but no value) perspective, the other passes were rarer.

I was not really aware of this and we had positioned ourselves well to get on the flight at the top of the queue. Unfortunately, 15 minutes before boarding, due to one of our adult party being in the bathroom, I watched the ‘tipping point’ occur. It occurred to someone that they could just stand in line right then and they did. Within seconds, as if someone shouted ‘fire’ in a cinema (or shotgun in this case), there was a rush to the queues. I thought the worst would happen would be that we were at the back of the prized orange queue. In dismay I saw that the orange queue had half the fracking plane! Nonetheless, we stood in it.

15 minutes into standing in this queue, my 7 year old asked, “why are we just standing here?” I told her that it was because of the “tragedy of the queue.” Everyone wanted to be in the front of the queue and so we all moved to get there. “But we aren’t in the front of the queue?” she said, pointing out the obvious. Well we aren’t quite at the back either, which we weren’t. So we are standing here so we won’t be at the back. “And what is the problem with being at the back?” Well, we won’t get as much choice in seats and I argued that this was something we wanted.

[Now we had become savvy enough to realise one thing, there was another opportunity to jump the queue, as we walked across the tarmac to the plane. We weren’t going to do this but we were going to maintain our relative position against the blue passers nipping at our heals and unencumbered by children. One got through but we broadly succeeded.]

On the plane, the true inefficiency of this emerged. People who boarded at the front were going back. People who boarded at the back were going forward. They collided. It was chaos. We staked out our row and wanted to maintain a spare seat. (There were 8 on the flight). Fortunately, the 2 year old put on a wonderful screaming performance and repelled all challengers.

Next came the food issue. I blogged on our experiences on the way here but that was on Qantas where we had stopped off in Brisbane. (So yes we had a choice which was to take some crazy stop-over route back to Melbourne. So there is only a Jetstar monopoly on direct flights.)

On Jetstar you buy food and that is what we intended to do. Big mistake. We were in the middle of the plane and by the time the food cart got to us, there was, no food. Certainly, no healthy food like sandwiches and meat pies. We got some potatoe chips. Now you might think it was some funny time flight that would have led to this situation. But no, it was the prime time 12 – 3pm run. Lunchtime. Hence, the high demand for food but that didn’t explain the low supply. I secured chips and a lolly bag.

Then I had an idea. I would try and procure a sandwich from the row ahead. I said, “I’ll give you $15 for your sandwich.” The women I was negotiating with pondered this and then said “how about $30?” I said, “$20?” She said, “no deal.” I said “Are you really going to eat a sandwich that is now worth $20 in cold hard cash?”

Actually, none of that happened but pondering the potential for a black market got me to open up my laptop and starting writing. I also wanted to remember to bring more contra onto the next Jetstar flight I had the misfortune to travel on. I think one could make a nice killing.

15 thoughts on “The Jetstar Black Market”

  1. You should’ve waited two weeks. I flew Jetstar today, and they’ve now introduced assigned seating. You can’t change your assignment at checkin, but if you book together, you’re seated together, and it does make things more civilised in the departure lounge.

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  2. Actually, it turns out that if you booked ahead you can’t get the assigned seats but if you booked now you can! That means that on the same flight some will have assigned seating and some will not. Another publicity coup for Jetstar!

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  3. I booked on-line and then 18 hours before departure I confirmed my seating online. Now I have an e-ticket with assigned seating. Hmm must take some food eh?

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  4. something bac last year I took a first flight with Jetstar from Sydney to Melb. The crew offered services non other budget airlines can keep up to. So good I wonder if the stewardess understand the basic of who is the customer.

    Firstly the boarding was really poorly managed. All passengers queue up but realised that they are boarding a specific color pass so the queue becomes very disorganised when it comes to boarding. The land crew also the stewardess don’t realise how many boarding pass they are tearing. She can call back the passenger rudely after I walked past the gate. I told her that she should know the number of tickets she is tearing after been called back.
    The stewardess was upset over this. She came up to my seat and warned me that my behavior is not acceptable. I was pissed and told her I am not happy and wish to make a complaint to company. For a moment I felt like I work for Jetstar.
    Well this did not end, when we arrived at the non-ducted airport. The badly mannered stewardess lead the passengers to the entrance of the airport and when she saw us she gave us the nasty glance with a long black sour face.

    Wow what an experience with Jetstar. I swear this is our first time and last on this flight.
    My wife commented that the staff behavior truely reflect the poor management/ training of the airline. In addition, this was a short trip, I can’t imagine if I will to seat in the flight additional second if I am on longer trip. It will be a nightmare.
    Now I can understand why Virginblue queue at the airport is longer than Jetstar.
    The Jetstar Honolulu incident is one thing…the spokeperson for Jetstar shows how unprofessional and the commitment to serve customer in a service industry. There is a saying…If the top level is not right don’t expect the downstream staff to be better off.
    Good luck for passengers boarding Jetstar

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  5. sometime bac last year I took a first flight with Jetstar from Sydney to Melb. The crew offered services non other budget airlines can keep up to. So good I wonder if the stewardess understand the basic of who is the customer.

    Firstly the boarding was really poorly managed. All passengers queue up but realised that they are boarding a specific color pass so the queue becomes very disorganised when it comes to boarding. The land crew also the stewardess don’t realise how many boarding pass they are tearing. She can call back the passenger rudely after I walked past the gate. I told her that she should know the number of tickets she is tearing after been called back.
    The stewardess was upset over this. She came up to my seat and warned me that my behavior is not acceptable. I was pissed and told her I am not happy and wish to make a complaint to company. For a moment I felt like I work for Jetstar.
    Well this did not end, when we arrived at the non-ducted airport. The badly mannered stewardess lead the passengers to the entrance of the airport and when she saw us she gave us the nasty glance with a long black sour face.

    Wow what an experience with Jetstar. I swear this is our first time and last on this flight.
    My wife commented that the staff behavior truely reflect the poor management/ training of the airline. In addition, this was a short trip, I can’t imagine if I will to seat in the flight additional second if I am on longer trip. It will be a nightmare.
    Now I can understand why Virginblue queue at the airport is longer than Jetstar.
    The Jetstar Honolulu incident is one thing…the spokeperson for Jetstar shows how unprofessional and the commitment to serve customer in a service industry. There is a saying…If the top level is not right don’t expect the downstream staff to be better off.
    Good luck for passengers boarding Jetstar

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  6. Here’s an email sent to Jetstar..(they don’t have a custoemr feedback email address, so this was sent to sales@jetstar.com)

    Dear Sales Team,

    Could you forward this email on to the relevant head of human resources.

    I think I’ve discovered why your staff turnover and sick days are higher than usual.

    Firstly I must congratulate Jetstar on flying my wife and me safely to and from Honolulu.

    However, I and most of the passengers and most of the staff on board were extremely disappointed in the food provided by your airline.

    This is because there were no meals available on board for purchase – there was a few cheese and crackers available but even these ran out close to the end of the flight.

    The staff were very polite and embarrassed at this situation – as they mentioned it had happened previously…

    Apparently we were supposed to pre-order through the Jetstar website to guarantee getting meals – but we booked through the Qantas frequent flyer website which doesn’t offer this option.

    Should I be letting my friends know that getting a meal is not guaranteed? I know your website says that your choice of meal is not guaranteed but having no choice apart from cheese and crackers made many people on the flight feel quite let down. 11 hours is probably one of Jetstar’s longer flights.

    Maybe this is why there were only 7 staff on board the flight – those attendants not there must have known that customers would be disappointed. Some other passengers were far more disappointed me – I could tell by the way they were yelling at the poor flight attendant.

    Thanks for reading; hopefully I’ve get more than the standard response sent to most customers offering constructive criticism.

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  7. How shit is Jet jetstar. And can u believe this they won an international award for excelence.

    Awards mean nothing. They are bad through and through.

    Spread the word to everyone do not fly Jet Star or Quantas as the usually cancel the Quantas flight and shove you onto a jetstar flight.

    JetStar Sucks Pass it on.

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  8. Seriously, this is a budget airline which allows people like me with children to be able to afford to fly. So what if the service sucks a little. At least now I can take my children to places for a reasonable price and if you are so worried about food, then take your own. Food on any flight is never that good anyway. Also, no airline started out perfect and like any other new comer they will have teething problems for years.

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  9. you guys all have your head up your ass. you guys have no clue. go fly in europe, then youll understand the concept of a budget airline. jetstar is the most profitable airline in australia and thats what skytraxx mainly base their awards on. so regardless of what you think, you are a minority. and for those of you who are thinking, that i work for the airline, get a better imagination.

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  10. We arrived in Bali on a Jest Star flight from Sydney arrived 21.30hrs 15th June. We flew Jet Star, ‘Business ’( called Star Class) and had contacted the hotel to received VIP airport arrival and transfer package.( $70US) Upon disembarking the aircraft a guide was waiting for us before passport control, immigration and Visa upon arrival. We handed the guide $50US for that Visa and he slipped away with our passports and returned within a minute with both passports stamped and visa inside. No queuing, there were 4 large flights arrived at the same time, and fellow passengers were in the queue still long after we had left the airport. Jet Star’s baggage service for its ‘Star Class’ passengers has no priority whatsoever, ours actually arrived at the carrousel at 22.40, considering we landed at 21.30. That’s appalling for such a small airport. On all of my flights where there has been no option other than to fly with them, I have found the flight crew to be remarkably friendly and efficient, but there ground staff both in Brisbane and our experience in Sydney was poor to say the least. Some staff, not even knowing where the Star class check-in line was. On every flight I have taken with them, the baggage is an issue upon arrival, they actually load the aircraft with departing passenger’s luggage before they attempt to get the incoming passengers luggage to the carousel. The baggage handling upon arrival is the worst I have encountered with any airline let alone a budget airline that has won budget airline of the year.

    Do Jetstar Care ? No !

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  11. The problem mostly comes from Jetstar staff lying continously (maybe they learn it from their management).

    Our non-existent plane was ‘cancelled’ and they told us they were trying to fix it. Well the engineers apparently didn’t have any spare parts at Coolangatta (no, I kid you not, that’s really what they said), so it made me wonder how they were trying to fix it before they had the bright idea of a spare part. Anyway, they then told us it would take an hour and a half to fly a spare part from Brisbane, even though it is only a 45 minute drive by car. Makes you wonder about the kitty hawk they use for ‘spare part mercy missions’.
    Then they said they would book us on to another flight, but they forgot to mention that it would be tomorrow, as there were ‘no more flights this evening’.

    At this point we decided to walk over to the Virgin terminal, because I was pretty sure they knew how to get a aeroplane into the air. We were able to get two tickets on the next flight out, and as we taxied out past the Jetstar terminal, there were three Jetstar jets sitting there with the lights off.

    So it’s hard to know what to make of all of Jetstar’s lies, but I assume that they test potential staff for dishonesty and hire the ones that sound the most believable.

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  12. I have just come back from NZ and went both ways with Jetstar.Being overweight, on booking in, I asked for a vacant seat to be next to me and was given a 3 seat row to myself, very nice of them. It is not their problem if I am over weight, however they were good enough to make me comfy.Not only that, it was my first flight and I was terrified, the stewards spoke to me all the way and reassured me, I can’t say enough about how good Jetstar is.I will be flying with them again.

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