5 things I learned from cabin crew training: WestJet’s COO

WestJet
By WestJet | | 3 min read

 

It’s not every day that you see airline executives pushing a cart down the aisle and serving guests in the air. But it’s a behaviour that’s part of the WestJet fabric – everyone pitches in to help. WestJet’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer (COO), Robert Antoniuk, took it a step further and joined WestJetters returning from temporary layoff to complete accelerated training and become a certified WestJet cabin crew member. 

We asked Robert what he learned.

Safety is truly above all

When you think of flight attendants – or “cabin crew” at WestJet – you might simply think of your inflight service: your food, beverage and entertainment. But by walking a mile in their shoes, my eyes were opened to just how much of the job is about caring for our guests and keeping them safe. Cabin crew are your nurses, firefighters and peace officers in the sky, and you can count on them to be consistently alert and aware along every mile of your journey. Providing exceptional service is important, but it always comes second to your safety.

Leadership matters

When asked why I took this training as it’s not a requirement of my job as part of the executive team, my answer is: the people. With an airline generalist background spanning 20 years and most recently leading WestJet’s Airports teams, as acting COO, I wanted to better understand each role. 

Robert Antoniuk, WestJet Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, operating his first flight as a WestJet-qualified cabin crew member. Robert Antoniuk, WestJet Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, operating his first flight as a WestJet-qualified cabin crew member.

In doing so, I can more accurately see the impacts that decisions have on our people and leading right through to the guest. After 80 hours of classroom training and more than 130 hours of online training, I now have a greater appreciation for both our skilled trainers and for one of the many critical roles that comprise a major airline operation. 

We care from the heart

WestJetters are known for their exceptional service and caring hearts. Our cabin crew always want you to have a positive experience, and everyone is doing their best given our current circumstances. At times, when a guest boards an aircraft, they may have already encountered challenges in their journey, whether it was longer than usual wait times or technology challenges at the airport. Please know that your cabin crew are working to turn that experience around for you by tending to your comfort and well-being to the best of their ability, while getting you safely to your destination.

 

Robert joins WestJetters returning from temporary leaves of absence to complete accelerated cabin crew training. Robert joins WestJetters returning from temporary leaves of absence to complete accelerated cabin crew training.

We are better together

There is both science and magic to running an airline operation. The science is in strategically developed schedules, dedication to executing on-time performance through standard operating procedures, and creating alignment between all of our teams – from the contact centre to airports and service partners, technical operations and maintenance engineers, to pilots and cabin crew. The magic is in how everyone cares for and supports one another and works towards the same goal: enriching the lives of everyone in WestJet's world.   

We will prevail

I want to say thank you to our valued guests and our teams for your understanding and patience as WestJet works to rebuild our network and operations to support the sharp increase in demand for travel. 

Taking down an airline is difficult but building it back is even more challenging. I have so much respect for everyone at WestJet – from those who are interacting daily with our guests to those working behind the scenes. The world is short-staffed and your resilience is truly appreciated. We are on our way back and we look forward to welcoming our guests safely on board.

Author's note: Robert stepped into the role of Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) in February 2021. Starting in October 2021, Robert will transition to a newly created role of Chief Health, Safety and Environment Officer and WestJet will welcome Diederik Pen as COO. Read more about Diederik here.