Air Canada bashed in social media for email mocking US media after missing dog saga

The US government shut-down has not only troubled the travel industry, but it has also made Air Canada land in a bit of a social media soup.

Passenger Jutta Kulic had booked an Air Canada flight between Californian cities of San Francisco to Sacramento. Kulic also took her two-year-old Italian greyhound, Larry, along with her.

CBS media reports that Kulic had instructed the Air Canada team on the ground not to open the door and let the dog out of the crate. But, apparently, the dog went missing after an Air Canada employee did not follow the passenger’s instructions.

CBS reached out to Air Canada to understand the company’s pet policy regarding this incident. But, unexpectedly, CBS received this reply from the airline’s official spokesperson, Peter Fitzpatrick:

“I think I would just ignore, it is local news doing a story on a lost dog. Their entire government is shut down and about to default and this is how the US media spends its time.”

This statement from the airline stirred the situation even further. Since last weekend, thousands of people on various social channels have shared the email and slammed the carrier over the incident.

What the airline’s spokesperson claimed as a “local news” has taken a giant avatar to hit back.

Air Canada made another statement to CBC regarding this incident:

“Air Canada acknowledges inappropriate comments were made to a reporter’s follow-up questions regarding Larry. Air Canada has been providing the best available information to media on this matter. However, these comments do not refer to the search for Larry by Air Canada employees that is ongoing or our interest in returning him safely.”

Of late, a number of airlines have faced the heat in social media. A Twitter user bought promotional tweets to claim his dad’s luggage that was reportedly lost by British Airways; Thai Airways blacked out its logo after a runway incident; United allowed users to book flights for a $0 fee; and Air Berlin reportedly took off without any luggage on the plane.

Tnooz spoke to Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying, a leading aviation marketing strategy firm.

What’s your opinion on this Air Canada incident?

While Air Canada has admitted to the mistake, it could have shown more empathy toward the dog owner, and be more active in responding to the comments that followed.

Of late, airlines are facing quite a bit of heat in social media. Is there a lot of knowledge catchup yet to happen with respect to social media and airlines? 

Most airlines, focused on driving engagement through social media – be it contests or new destination launches. What they often fail to realize is that if they don’t get their social contingency processes right, the same fans will come back to bite them. It’s what impacting Air Canada now. Social media is a conversation, and that needs empathy, rather than one-way statements. Recently, when I asked British Airways’ CEO Willie Walsh about his social media strategy – he mentioned it’s one of the key challenges he is trying to address right now.

Customer service and crisis management need to be the primary business goals that should be addressed through social – everything else is a good to have.

Tnooz has reached out to Air Canada regarding the statement made, we will update when we hear from them.

NB: Dog plane image via Shutterstock.

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Karthick Prabu

About the Writer :: Karthick Prabu

Karthick was general manager for Tnooz in Asia until September 2014.



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