I was recently travelling on business, and had the occasion to be transferring planes in Toronto on Friday Feb 8th. That’s the day that Ontario and the whole east coast where hammered by one of the worst snowstorms in decades. Arriving from snowless Vancouver en route to Montreal, I knew immediately that my connecting flight would not be taking off anytime soon. I based this intuitive grasp of the obvious on the sight of the 401, normally a 16-lane freeway that appeared as a single lane, two-track path, without a vehicle in sight.
Most flights in and out of Toronto were not going anywhere anytime soon. Looking like it had been pulled from the screen of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the departures board didn’t look promising.
Twelve hours and numerous delayed, cancelled and rebooked flights later, I was on my way to Montreal. While I always travel with a carry on for business, I had checked a bag of gear for a day skating on the Ottawa canal with a friend during the return leg home Monday. I had tagged it well and secured the handles together, a key factor, as you’ll see later. Of course no Air Canada flight experience is complete without a delayed flight and lost luggage, and on both counts, the airline delivered.
With no bag in sight in Montreal, I filed forms, got my reference number, and headed to the hotel, now 24hr since departing Vancouver.
But that’s when the story deviates from the usual lost bag tale. The following day a friend departed Vancouver bound for Toronto also with Air Canada. While we learned of her time imposition on Facebook with flight delays, it was the photo that she posted that caught my eye later that evening. She had taken a picture of hundreds of bags pulled from the carousel in Toronto without an owner in sight. While I was out having dinner, prior to seeing the post, a lengthy discussion had broken out on her wall musing whether one of the bags could possibly be mine. I picked up the thread later that evening, and was quite amazed to see what was most certainly my bag – the blue one, now marked in the photo, with the handles tied together -remember?
What makes this story so memorable to this point is the fact that prior to having gone out for dinner, I had logged into Air Canada missing luggage site, and had been greeted with the message that my claim had “no matching record” meaning the name and claim number did not match and the bag did not exist. To now see my lost bag in Toronto airport via Facebook, was quite something!
Of course my initial euphoric call to Air Canada to share my news was met with a guarded response. Just how many bags get claimed via a Facebook photo ID?
But I decided to call back an hour later and re-frame the story, stating, “I have managed to track my lost bag in a rather unconventional way, and I would like to MAKE YOU THE HERO of my story.” Simply by adding a personal touch and involving this person in the tale, they became engaged and wanted to help. They promised to see what could be done.
When I arrived at Montreal airport the following day to catch my flight to Ottawa, I checked on my bag status. It still officially had “no matching record”, however my ticket name reference had a field note that said a bag had been put on a Toronto – Montreal flight and should arrive in time for my connection to Ottawa. Clearly the hero of my story had something to do with this!
While the bag missed that flight too, it did eventually reunite with me in Ottawa. And I can say with certainty, that although it did have a name and address attached to it, it’s quite likely it would have been days before that bag would have seen Vancouver if not for Facebook and my friends photo.
The technology of smart phones and Facebook certainly facilitated the exercise. But in the end it was the power of storytelling and involving others in the message, that helped spread the word. I think there’s a powerful marketing message there. While we should certainly keep up with technology and utilize the latest tools, they in themselves are not marketing. It is the human touch and storytelling that should be at the heart of your message.
And yes, despite the routine customer service issues that seem rife at Air Canada, there is a hero there with a story to tell!