Not any more

Air Canada faces Twitter rage over PR nightmare

In Canada on August 5, 2010 at 11:53

Thursday, August 5, 2010 8:30 AM

Air Canada faces Twitter rage after dying 8-year-old’s wheelchair destroyed

Amber MacArthur

Update: Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick has replied to an e-mail query asking for comment on the incident. Here’s his full reply:

“Regrettably Tanner’s electric chair arrived in damaged condition at La Guardia airport, we are sorry about this and are investigating. Our manager at the airport immediately sent the broken chair, which is custom made, out for repairs. We also supplied a manual wheelchair and later in the evening an electric wheelchair for his use in the interim. Once we learned the replacement chair was inadequate we got in contact with the family to see what we could do for them. Because the chair is custom-made it is difficult to get it repaired or replaced quickly but we are doing all we can.”

There is a common saying among fliers in this country that “Air Canada is not happy until you’re not happy.” While we might chuckle at the phrase, the airline’s reputation took a turn for the worse online Wednesday night when they let down a dying little boy.

The 8-year-old’s name is Tanner. He is fighting muscular dystrophy. This week a group of people, including the boy’s aunt and social media star Scott Stratten, organized a Tweet-a-Thon auction to help Tanner live out his final wishes. In just 30 hours the #TutusForTanner Twitter event helped to raise more than $25,000. Wednesday, Tanner travelled with his aunt, Catherine Connors, to New York to tour through Central Park on Friday with a team of tutu-wearing bloggers and friends (just one of his final wishes).

Tutus for Tanner

Follow the trending topic on Twitter

Contacting Twitter…

When they arrived at La Guardia airport they discovered that Tanner’s wheelchair had been broken beyond repair. According to Connors (@herbadmother on Twitter), the airline promised an immediate loaner for him (he is immobile without it) but when the travellers called the airline from the hotel Wednesday night they were told that Air Canada couldn’t do anything about the chair until Monday.

Monday? As Catherine explains, Tanner was left stuck in a bed for hours in New York with no hope of getting back his $15,000 chair or a replacement. While Twitter friends spread the news about Air Canada’s face palm, I’m reminded of another social media disaster. When United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s guitar the airline suffered months of embarrassment as web users shared the artist’s creative ditty.

As of Thursday morning, there was still little hope for a new chair for Tanner. However, there were hundreds of tweets looking to get the boy a suitable replacement. Based on the messages, there were also clear signs the Twittersphere was determined to help Tanner find a way to see New York the way he deserves, despite Air Canada.

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