An Open Letter to WestJet

I sent this letter to WestJet customer service a couple of days ago. Evidently, they’re still pouring over it. Feel what you wish, but my take is that there is a prevalent, albeit not necessarily the most serious, lack of passenger etiquette when it comes to putting one’s seat back: especially for those in the front rows.

For those of you that don’t know of, or fly, WestJet Airlines, Canada’s second largest carrier, they do not have a first class or a business class section, therefore anyone can technically sit in the front row and anywhere there on back. The front row, however, is restricted from booking in advance because it is generally held in case someone in need of physical assistance or of limited maneuverability or sheer size (usually height) would benefit from a little extra space.

Dear WestJet,

I frequently fly your airline. In fact, I enjoy the consistent customer service, lack of delays, and quality of both your staff and planes. I find value in your prices, though I always source seat sales (mostly so I can book additional flights), and I enjoy the variety of destinations you serve, as well as the number of flights to these destinations. I fly with you probably 6 to 8 round trips a year, if not more. You’ve got the computer, you check it out. This year, I’ve already flown to Hawaii, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, and New York on WestJet.

But I have a beef. I am sorry, I know it is something that is prevalent throughout the industry, but yours is the airline I choose, and you apparently care [“WestJet Cares” is their motto].

I am sick and tired of courteously following your suggestions whereby I check in the day before (I am anal-retentive to a ‘t’ and almost always web-check-in right on 24 hrs before my flight), select my seats as far forward as possible (routinely row 2 or 3), arrive early and board the plane only to have the person in the front row, the person with the greatest volume of personal space and the greatest amount of leg room, inevitably put their seat back. This behavior is disgraceful, and dammit if I’m not tempted to speak to them each and every time. Clearly this is a confrontation you would like to avoid.

I understand that everyone is provided the opportunity to put their seat back, but I know there are courteous people out there, myself included, who won’t put their seat back at all during a flight. However, if the person in front of me puts theirs back (and it’s never someone tall either), I feel like I must, because, for among other reasons, I can’t view my little TV from so high above. Neither am I comfortable. In fact, it’s almost claustrophobic.

My appeal to you is that you please consider this a valid problem, and that you consider passenger etiquette as an item for improvement and development. Frankly it drives me crazy, because there isn’t a precedent for reclining in the front row, and it is nothing short of selfish. I travel often enough, on some of your longest routes, and it just plain sucks that someone who adheres to your standards and plays by your rules gets so royally screwed by the passenger that weasels his way into the front row. And I am aware of the game that I need to play if I want into the front row, and believe me, I will start playing it.

My suggestion would be to prevent the front row seats from reclining, or perhaps restrict them so that they only go half way.

For my fellow passengers out there, please don’t recline your seats, simply as a matter of courtesy. If you must, perhaps because you’re 6’4″, or your have a bad back, or the person in front of you has reclined, at least check with the person behind you first. Be polite.

Best regards,


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