Air Canada Dropping the Ball (and our luggage)
Last week Air Canada was thrown into crisis mode when a passenger caught AC baggage handlers on video dropping luggage from the top of an outdoor staircase to a luggage trailer 20 feet below.
Rather than walking the bags down the stairs, as one would hope, the team felt that recreating Galileo’s gravity experiment in Pisa a more fitting plan. What’s worse, these were carry-on bags; the ones people pack with their most fragile and important travel items.
The incident after only 3 days has been viewed over 750,000 times. Air Canada has since apologized and may very well fire the workers. Although I truly believe that saying “I’m sorry” is sometimes the least expensive option in a PR crisis, AC will have to do more to make this go away.
Firing the workers is a strong move in the short run. It serves as a warning to other employees that this behavior won’t be tolerated, and it distances the company from what they will say is an isolated case. The fact is that consumers believe this video captures more of a norm than an exception and I’m left with questions that only management can answer.
When Air Canada joined many other carriers in charging passengers extra for checking a suitcase, it caused passengers to pack as much as possible into their carry-on bags, which fly for free if you put them in the overhead bin inside the cabin yourself. As a result the boarding process has become a race for overhead bin space and, when those are full, many bags are forced to be removed from the cabin, left at the gate and hand delivered down below. It doesn’t cost the passenger any more but those bags were never meant to be handled, not to mention mishandled.
This process of transferring the carry-on luggage below takes time and, in the airline business, time is money. Why then, with all this extra revenue does AC not pay for a solution to a problem it created? Yes you can fire these employees but the problem won’t go away. Why doesn’t Air Canada concede that the solution lies in a faster, safer and more efficient system of getting bags that won’t fit inside the cabin down to baggage handlers below.
I’ve seen luggage slides that are attached to these outdoor staircases at other airports. I’ve often seen elevators near the aircraft that lift these extra bags to the gangway for disembarking passengers. To be safe, a worker should carrying only one bag at a time down a staircase while holding the handrail to the bottom. At best they can carry two but that’s a waste of time and it puts the worker at risk of tripping.
I’d like to think that all baggage handlers care about the belongings in their care but the truth is some simply do not. In my opinion however management is more responsible in this case. The employer needs to give employees the tools to do their job effectively and efficiently. Maybe these specific baggage handlers should be terminated but until management addresses the bigger issue, we can only hope the camera’s keep rolling and Air Canada is held accountable as a company.
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