Adventures in Tokyo

Adventures in Tokyo

Arriving from Seoul (Incheon) at Narita Airport, Tokyo, Japan, we caught a glimpse through the windows of a Fedex MD-11 jet upside down, in pieces, charred, and smoking on the main runway.  My heart goes out to the families of the two pilots who were killed in the accident.

Tokyo was a meant to be a quick stop on the way back from Phuket, Thailand, after 12 amazing days in the sun and the most beautiful wedding on a secluded beach that I’ve ever seen (and had the honour to be part of).


So Courtney (my buddy’s daughter who was traveling back with me from her mom’s and stepdad’s wedding in Thailand) trekked a mile through Narita Airport to find the Air Canada counter.  Once we got there it surprisingly (sarcasm) led to the following answers to our questions:

  • this isn’t out fault, the runway is closed, you’re on your own
  • no, we don’t know where your bags are
  • no, we can’t help you find a hotel or transportation
  • no, we don’t know when you can fly out
  • no, we can’t help you but please call this phone number to try to rebook a flight home
  • no, this isn’t our problem, you’re on your own for all expenses

In the end we collaborated with a fantastic guy who was in a similar predicament, Kia Karimi, from Dunkin’ Donuts, and with the help of a very pleasant ANA agent, my Macbook Air and Skype, we figured out hotels, transportation, the location of our baggage and flights home two days later.

Now for fun, let’s contrast this with what WestJet did when the Vancouver Airport was shutdown by snow in January (also not their fault):

  • they bought pizza for all of their passengers stranded at YVR
  • they figured out hotels and transportation for each passenger
  • here’s the cool part:  THEY PAID FOR ALL OF THIS (food, hotels, and transportation) to the tune of $2,000,000

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Air Canada when Virgin decides to fly domestically in Canada.  Between their culture and WestJet’s it’ll be interesting to see where that leaves Air Canada.

Side note:  now as it turned out we had an absolute blast touring around Tokyo going to Akihabara (electronics market) and Harajuku (yes, from the Gwen Stefani song), seeing a movie, having great dinners, and marvelling at how amazingly polite, accommodating, and helpful Japanese people are and how Tokyo is a city steeped in culture and remarkably clean for a major city of 13,000,000 people.

Mike Desjardins

Mike is a a graduate of UBC’s Sauder School of Business with a Bachelors of Commerce, Mike has spent the past 21 years transforming businesses.

  • Mark Mawhinney
    Posted at 14:46h, 28 March Reply

    Mike, there are innumerable stories that compare and contrast WestJet and Air Canada. Unfortunately our national flag carrier hasn’t found its Hedgehog, as outlined by Jim Collins in Good to Great. Check out a link on my blog ( which tells one story of many that compares and contrasts WJA with ACE.

  • Maria LoScerbo
    Posted at 15:41h, 02 April Reply

    So what you’re telling me is that your loyalty to Air Canada is waning? Mike, I am appalled at the egregiously poor customer treatment you received!

    This is a great example of how a customer with a broadband connection and a microphone called a blog can voice his or her dissatisfied voice online to large audiences.

    Today smart companies are investing in social media teams to monitor their online reputations and comments such as yours. Major brands such as Southwest and Dell interact with bloggers and responding in a caring and personal way.

    This posting is an opportunity for Air Canada to get closer to you – their customer – and improve their services. This will be an interesting experiment. I hope you hear back from them soon! Keep me posted (no pun intended).

  • Managing your company’s online reputation « Epic Public Relations Blog
    Posted at 16:31h, 07 April Reply

    […] wrote a blog entry about his experience flying with Air Canada on his way home from Asia.  In his post, he  tells the story about the poor customer treatment he received during an unanticipated two-day […]

Post A Comment