A few weeks ago I got up at the inhumane hour of 3:30 am to catch a 5:55 am Air Canada flight from Whitehorse to Edmonton. I had checked in on-line the night before, and having heard the horror stories of Yukoners bumped from flights for showing up ‘late,’ I was determined not to be one of them. I took myself to the airport, parked the car, dragged my luggage through snow that hadn’t yet been cleared, and end up in the baggage check-in line with five minutes to spare!
Once through security and a lengthy wait, it was finally time for boarding ... except for one little hiccup.
An announcement from the boarding desk informed us the flight was oversold, and would someone give up his or her seat for compensation and courtesy re-booking help. No one stood up. We wait... another announcement, this time with specific reference to re-booking on the 3:45 flight. Again, no one stood up. Time passes. A third announcement — if no one gave up their seat, an unfortunate young person would have to be bumped and be unable to travel with the rest of his youth group. We remained seated, in guilty silence. But I was also a little angry — I had gone to great lengths to adjust myself to Air Canada’s scheduling requirements, only to have Air Canada make me feel like I owed them my seat to solve their overbooking problem. We finally boarded, all but one unfortunate, 20 minutes later.
According to CBC Marketplace, Air Canada has the worst on-time performance measured against other international airline carriers. Forty percent of Air Canada flights in 2012 were late says research group, FlightStats. No wonder there is a crackdown! Wielding the threat of losing your seat is a great way to change customer behaviour... it works. We were all on time that morning. I didn’t like it — I hate jumping through Air Canada hoops — but I did it. So when the tables turned and Air Canada wanted something from me, I was disinclined to give it.
An organization’s brand is the authentic reflection of the things they stand for and value. The classic definition of brand is “it’s what your audience thinks of you.” In other words, it’s about your reputation and your customer’s experience. Whatever Air Canada’s brand once was, it has been reduced to one of wielding large sticks and offering wilted carrots.
A great brand and customer experience is about a relationship. With reduced services and less respect for the customer, all I get out of this relationship is a seat. And now this well paid for seat is not even secure.
Then a brand is what you remember. I did a lot of flying recently on my 6-week trip to Europe and only two things stand out. The first was the professionalism of the KLM crew that did an emergency landing in Yellowknife after delivering a baby on board. The passengers were cooped up on an Atlantic flight for an extra 3 hours and many people missed their connections, but there was applause when a healthy baby boy was announced. The next day I flew the last leg home to Whitehorse from Calgary on Air North. Their brand must be “community airline” because there was so much chatter and laughter on board before take-off that it was hard to hear the safety spiel. I’m sticking with these guys.
by margriet aasman
That is an amazing story Paul. You could say the event of a birth on the plane gave the airline a rare opportunity to show their best side. And it is through human interaction that we all connect in a very real way. And why is it that Air North gets the happy people… we love flying home with them! They treat us like we are special… and go the extra mile to let us know.
by Doug Brown
This is an excellent post from the first sentence to the last. It should go straight to the CEO of Air Canada. So glad you wrote this Margriet!
by Margriet Aasman
Thanks Doug… I know my experience pales to some. But why are we so negative about Air Canada? Guess we just don’t feel the love like we do with Air North. A little customer appreciation would go a long way…