Tanner’s Wheelchair Repaired

August 5th, 2010

I’ve been touring in Maine all week and have not been as connected to the news as I normally am. So by the time I heard about Tanner, the boy who’s $15,000 wheelchair was broken by Air Canada, the airline had already taken measures to remedy the situation. Considering the nature of Tanner’s illness and his dependence on this unique chair, Air Canada did the only thing they could do: apologize, repair it immediately and make a meaningful gesture as compensation for the trouble. As I understand it Tanner would like to visit Disneyland and the airline will also make that happen.

If I were Air Canada I would look carefully into what happened to prevent this from reoccurring; but I must say the airline’s response, albeit likely fueled by the groundswell of public support for Tanner, should be commended. Air Canada found a 24 hour repair shop, had the wheelchair fixed and offered an apology that took responsibility for the damage and then they looked beyond the event to offer to fulfill one of Tanner’s dreams (to go to Disneyland). Their recovery from this incident was reflective of the outstanding nature of the poor customer service Tanner received; so AC was right in dispensing with regular company protocol for these matters.

When I speak at customer service and social media events and conferences I mention that the companies of tomorrow, who “get” social media today, understand that customer service issues are bound to occur but that they also need to have a recovery plan in place to deal with those. It’s nice to see that Air Canada is thinking about their future with this incident, by acknowledging that every single customer has a voice and deserves to be treated with respect. Congratulations to Tanner and his family for making themselves heard and empowering the rest of us in the process.


7 replies
  1. Regina Julia Nouh says:


    Dear Dave Carroll,

    When I first heard about you I was watching the news on TV here in my country Brazil, in the city of São Paulo. The anchor was talking to someone and mentioned what had happened to you. And I was curious to know the whole story and looked for you on the Internet.

    Once a Brazilian Airline Company left me in Morocco without my baggage and I had to spend money on things that I had in it. And of course I also had to buy a suitcase. Although I had complained about it they didn’t give me a coin.

    Since I’m totally in favor of the rights of customers ‘I WAS DELIGHTED’ with your case and while I was watching and reading about you and United something came to my mind and I could realize the ‘real’ power of the net.

    Justice is something so great! But the price for customers to call for it is so disgusting ! By the way, price in money and stress. And through the international repercussion of your case and the consequent solution I could see the net had done “THE QUICKEST AND CHEAPEST JUSTICE I HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE”.
    You’re very intelligent and did the right thing to defend yourself and your example has to be followed: free Justice for customers through the net !

    The way you chose to call for Justice was so brilliant that the best of all lawyers couldn’t do better !!!
    Congratulations on your behavior and on the songs that, by the way, I appreciated a lot especially the first one.
    My best wishes for you and your band.


    Regina Julia Nouh

  2. Jan says:

    I’m very glad that Air Canada owned up, apologized, and repaired Tanner’s wheelchair. It was very unfortunate that he had to spend an unnecessary length of time bedridden, due to not having his wheelchair.

    I’m a wheelchair user myself, and I had the same thing happen to me with my wheelchair years ago. Air Canada damaged my folding wheelchair, that the frame itself was bent. Air Canada did pay for the cost of my chair getting repaired, but it was never the same after, regarding folding the chair.

    My opinion speaking as a wheelchair user, I definately felt due to the severe extent that Air Canada damaged Tanner’s chair, in my opinion there’s no question he deserved a new wheelchair. But I got the sense due to his chair being so custom made (like most wheelchairs), that Tanner & his family maybe preferred his chair be repaired instead?

    It is beyond me how airlines and baggage handlers would not have the calm and sense to realize how important a wheelchair is to a person with a physical disability. A wheelchair is not like a piece of damaged/lost luggage, you just can’t go to any store and buy a replacement wheelchair at the spare of the moment, like you can luggage, clothing, etc. I recently heard another horror story in the news coming from another country, where the airline told a wheelchair user who happened to be a known athlete, that they would not allow him to use his wheelchair to board the airline, and this man was humiliated and had to drag himself without the use of his legs for everyone to see! Demeaning & humiliating!

    Perhaps disability advocates & groups need to educate airlines more regarding persons with disabilities, and most importantly, that more care needs to be focused on the physical handling of wheelchairs being put on airplanes and that a wheelchair needs to be looked at differently than a piece of luggage.

    I do agree, Air Canada did end up doing the right thing for Tanner….but I have my douts that if his family hadn’t been clever and wise enough to turn to Twitter to have their plight heard, would Air Canada have still done the same?!

  3. Elaine says:

    Thank you Dave, for creating awareness around good business practices. You do so in such a positive way, and I feel strongly that this results in the best outcome.

  4. Emme Smith says:

    When I first learned of this story this morning in the Globe & Mail blog, I was really really angry and I felt bad for Tanner & his family. I couldn’t believe that it seemed like the airline wasn’t going anything or cared too much. There was a lot of noise on the internet about it. Wasn’t sure all of the facts, but now at the end of the day adorable Tanner has his chair back and he was apologized to and then some. I was happy to hear that the airline never pointed fingers and accepted their wrong. They quietly made what they needed to Right. Thanks Dave Carroll for your insight and way of putting things.

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