I’m disappointed with the way our world is lumbering along. Too many selfish people, too many businesses only concerned with their own inner workings. Not enough care for how we make others feel or the consequences of our actions. Let me attempt to illustrate my point by sharing an experience I lived through recently.

A few months back, as my wife contemplated upcoming school holidays, it was decided a trip away would be good for the family. With two of our four beyond school years, a week was all we could spare. Soon enough three other families had signed on and an excursion to Queenstown was selected. Snow, incredible vistas and bars open until late; is there a better place for maturing youngsters and some oldies attempting to prove they are still relevant? With it being a short break, we needed to make the most of every hour. Hence, a Sunday flight at 6.30am was chosen. Up at 3.20am, a litany of covid-19 paperwork pre-prepared and we were through security by 4.45am. The excitement was palpable, and then ‘the’ news. A text to all passengers: “Flight JQ219 03/07/2022 has been cancelled … we’re sorry your flight has been cancelled.”

No reason. No one there to make the announcement. No options, apart from the ‘possibility’ of a flight on Wednesday or a credit very few know how to redeem. Three young women silently escorted 200 passengers back to the check-in counters, leaving us to hang with a growing throng of energised holiday makers. Our travelling party of 19 were left without a plan and blameless Jetstar staff to handle a wave of complaints. Alan Joyce was nowhere to be seen.

Some better minds in our group than me would not be daunted and soon enough a flight to Christchurch was booked that same evening, at 11.50pm. Nothing was going to keep us from squeezing the most out of our condensed tour. Another of our party booked a 50-seat bus to meet the flight and we were ready to start, again. After some afternoon siestas we met for the first vacation dinner, at a Melbourne pub, not a Queenstown restaurant. No matter, we had a plan and momentum. As required, we checked in two hours prior to our flight, again, and, with a few beers under our collective belts, we were up and about once more.

While our late-night departure was extended another hour due to an unexplained delay, nothing could curb the enthusiasm. The Christchurch airport exchange was smooth and soon enough our second leg began. Six hours of windy roads, high mountains and breathtaking scenery lay ahead. Despite the early excitement our little group was showing signs of fatigue, I think all 19 closed their eyes at one point.

30 hours behind schedule and a little weary, we arrived in Queenstown ready to enjoy every moment. And this is exactly what we did. Notwithstanding some venues battling covid induced absences or being short staffed more generally, the town did its best to ensure we had a week to remember. After a lot of laughs, some good skiing and several late nights we were ready to return home.

And then it happened, again. The text: “JQ220 10/07/2022 from Queenstown has been cancelled.They had to be kidding? It was my turn to lead, so off I went to the airport. First job, organise accommodation. The gravity of our situation was soon apparent. The very nice man from Jetstar, standing in front of a long queue of angry travellers, informed us of a new fact. “There are no available rooms in Queenstown” and the next flight was 4-5 days away! It would be -5 degrees by midnight, were we to sleep next to the lake? Again, there was nothing to be gained by shooting the messenger.

Long story short, we took the only option we could find: a flight to Auckland, arriving at a hotel around 1am, slept for four hours, flew Air NZ to Adelaide, waited 6 hours and hit Melbourne around 10pm. It was a messy day and not a word of empathy from those who created the mayhem.

Why do I bother sharing my story? First up, it feels good to vent. Cathartic, liberating even.

The second reason is to illustrate a problem I think many businesses are dealing with at this time. Quite simply, it is bloody hard to operate when you don’t know which staff (or contractors) are going to turn up each day. Back-up plans are almost impossible to organise when retaining replacements is as difficult as it has ever been. A pilot with a fever is asked to stay away, toughing it out will only infect others. Chippies get crook, truss makers catch the winter flu, Bowens’ truck drivers remain at home if they have a cough … and suddenly everyone is thin on the ground. In these times, recruiting new team members is a nightmare.

“Back-up plans are almost impossible to organise when retaining replacements is as difficult as it has ever been.”

From my point of view, the response of most companies, Jetstar included, has been to become overly myopic in their approach. Not good.

For too long businesses have been distracted from doing all they can for their customers. Never-ending absences is affecting priorities; just opening the doors each day (or getting a plane off the ground) is as much as many seem able to achieve.

Having enough staff to ensure the dinner service goes ahead is all a restauranter can manage. That the kids serving tables don’t know the menu or can’t pour a beer has become a secondary issue. Unnecessary price increases have been the priority of many manufacturers, rather than thinking of the impossible cost impediments being forced upon loyal, end users.

The onus is very much on employers to recognise the rising expectations of workers, young and old. For Bowens and Timbertruss we must find a way to build and maintain the engagement of our team, as this will ensure our customers’ needs are always met.

“The onus is very much on employers to recognise the rising expectations of workers, young and old. For Bowens and Timbertruss we must find a way to build and maintain the engagement of our team, as this will ensure our customers’ needs are always met.”

We are working to develop robust, future-focused strategies to create the best possible environments, enabling us to compete in an ever more dynamic and competitive labour market. Having warm bodies in roles is not enough. For us to service our builders as they expect, I need to ensure our crew is educated and keen to put customers first. If we don’t get it right, we don’t have a business. Again, we must find a way.

“For us to service our builders as they expect, I need to ensure our crew is educated and keen to put customers first. If we don’t get it right, we don’t have a business. Again, we must find a way.”

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