Friday, August 6, 2010

VERITAS: FUMBLE RECOVERY - AIR CANADA BREAKS WHEELCHAIRS

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

It seems like it’s turning out OK in the end, but good grief, did Air Canada not think this was a case worthy of top priority? On Wednesday, 10 year-old Tanner Bawn flew to New York with his mom, joined by his aunt Catherine Connors who lives here in Toronto. Tanner has muscular dystrophy (and was going to New York to take part in a fundraiser set up in his name), and seeing the sites of the Big Apple is part of a “bucket list” the poor kid has drawn up of things he wants to do before he dies. After boarding the Air Canada flight, baggage handlers decided to dismantle the electric wheelchair upon which Tanner is wholly dependent, to make it easier to fit in the cargo hold. Trouble is, they couldn’t put it back together at the other end, so suddenly Tanner found himself bed-ridden in Manhattan. The airline said they’d get it fixed, but it would probably take until Monday. They offered a manual wheelchair (Tanner can’t use one), then sent over one of those electric scooter deals (ditto), apparently without even bothering to let the family know it was sitting in the hotel lobby. Meanwhile, it turns out Aunt Catherine is quite the active blogger (and was in town for a blogger conference) and was getting busy declaring Twitter-based jihad against Air Canada. A blizzard of critical posts from incensed Tweeps ensued, among them yummymummy.ca’s Erica Ehm, who commands an army of followers all on her own. Mainstream media picked up the story and descended on Tanner’s hotel. By late afternoon, Air Canada had not only gotten Tanner’s chair fixed and back to him, the airline announced that it would fly Tanner and his cousins to Disney World – the number one wish on his list. “I kind of burst into tears a little bit,” said a now-happy Aunt Catherine, saying that Air Canada wants “very badly to make this as right as they can.” I guess so. True, the airline moved quickly to fix the problem, and then upped the ante with the Disney trip, but by fumbling the communications with the family through the first half of the saga, they took a reputational hit that could have been easily avoided with a little attention, empathy and effort.

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