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As WestJet’s fleet of 787 Dreamliner planes took to the skies this spring, the crew aboard showcased the airline’s new approach to world-class service — a mindset SAIT helped them navigate.
A new direction for inspiration
The glamorous planes are an opportunity for the Calgary-based airline to offer business and premium class travel, a business strategy that required setting an additional baseline for passenger service. But instead of drawing inspiration from their competitors for meeting the elevated expectations of this new clientele, WestJet took a different direction.
“The most critical decision we made was to not go down the traditional service model. We had to do something fundamentally different to make everyone realize this is us competing in a different marketplace,” says Louis Saint-Cyr, WestJet’s Vice President of Guest Experience. “We would get our inspiration from external sources.”
Sharing knowledge, passion and experience
Few industries understand the importance of service more than hospitality.
And few places can approach service training in quite the same way as SAIT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, where instructors share a combination of knowledge, passion and experience in far-flung locations and award-winning restaurants.
“Given the expertise in our school is all rooted in service, we knew we could help them,” says the school’s dean, James Overall (HRA ’01).
Master Chef and SAIT culinary instructor Michael Allemeier discusses the art of plating with WestJet managers as part of five days of training.
A partnership takes flight
With the deadline of the fleet’s first official travel dates looming, the school developed a five-day program to immerse 20 key WestJet managers in all aspects of world-class service — from plating dishes to the fundamentals of wine and beyond — both on campus and at Azuridge Estate Hotel in Priddis, the Fairmont Palliser and Bridgette Bar.
This program, says Saint-Cyr, was exactly what WestJet was looking for.
SAIT and WestJet are continuing to partner on corporate training, developing additional sessions and discussing menu planning and other services the school can offer.
The relationship is off to a great start, says Saint-Cyr — one that will serve passengers well.
Dinner is served — the final product earns a big A+.