Last Monday, a father inadvertently left his 23-month-old son in Vancouver airport; a story which should remind you of Home Alone 2. No, the son didn’t thwart a midnight heist of Duncan’s Toy Chest, but nonetheless, Air Canada generously offered to fly the father all the way back from Winnipeg and to Vancouver again, which, given the minimum $438 round-trip fare, is something they weren’t obligated to do, let alone in 2008.
The question I was recently asked of a similar situation was how I, as a shareholder of the company, would have reacted to the news. Even if you put aside the warm fuzziness and consider the chip off the company’s bottom-line, the answer’s still obvious – I’d be proud. As a customer, you’d be silly to expect them to do it again, but at least you’ll know that they have a heart, which in turn builds brand empathy.
It goes against everything you may have learnt in B-school, but it works. For example, while most airlines throw in bonus reward miles and levy second bag surcharges, Air Canada offers its customers an alternate $22 discount for forgoing reward miles, checked baggage and date flexibility. Honest.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for some odd reason the only thing that comes to mind when I hear the word PR is Prentiss McCabe. Air Canada has shown that by focusing on genuine customer satisfaction, that they’ve spent a fraction of what they would’ve paid their PR agency and achieved so much more.