Another story of baggage handlers caught on camera. Except this one’s different.


I wrote this 35,000 feet somewhere above Manitoba on my way home from giving a talk @ Social Media Camp 2014 in Victoria, BC. I booked an early flight home in order to spend the rest of the day with my family – including my 1-year old pup Willow.

As we sat on the tarmac, I was staring blankly out my window, and noticed an Air Canada plane (Flight AC190) also preparing to leave. Two baggage handlers were loading a final few large items into the cargo hold – one of which was a large dog crate.

Flying is stressful enough for most people. Flying for animals must be downright terrifying. I wondered how the pooch was faring, and I could see from my vantage point that the dog wasn’t calm inside the crate. Maybe barking, maybe nipping- probably scared out of its mind. Whatever it was doing, it was unsettled.

What happened next made my day.

Both baggage handlers walked to opposite ends of the crate, and – as gently as if they were carrying a stroller with a baby inside – lifted and positioned the crate onto the conveyer belt.

One of the handlers quickly realized that the dog was sitting/cowering at the lower end of the crate, and was worried it was going to topple. The other handler – without pause, got on the conveyor with the dog and held it snugly in place as it made the journey up the ramp, to make a gentle hand-off to his colleague in the belly of the plane. Once he was confident his package was delivered, he hopped down and carried on with his duties.

And there I was, unbeknownst to them, taking pictures and planning a post.

Serving customers in the social age sucks

The reality is people use social media to complain about service experiences – rarely to praise them. Especially when a public airing of grievances delivers better, faster customer service – or even free stuff. Unfortunately, sometimes sharing bad service is warranted, as was the case recently with another pair of baggage handlers.

Like it or not, anyone in the service industry today – like these baggage handlers – is subject to intense and unforgiving scrutiny by anyone equipped with a smart phone and a twitter handle. It seems to me that people are purposefully looking for employees to screw up, and share via social.

Anyone who has done a stint in the service industry (like me) knows how hard it is to have a bad day and “be on”. You also make honest mistakes that are sometimes beyond your control. Too bad. People don’t care. Customer service is the social age isn’t fair.

Watching these two guys reminded me that every employee has the power to build or burn your brand by the actions they take.

Whether they’re front-line fast food clerks, or senior executives– employees and their actions are the single-greatest branding tool organizations have. Forget advertising. Forget marketing. Remember your people.

To mitigate the impact of a public kvetch-fest kicked off by a public service gaffe, here are five simple things your organization needs start doing.

  1. Regularly remind employees that the mike is hot, and the camera’s on. Like it or not – Big Brother is not just watching, but tweeting, instagramming, and facebooking.
  2. Listen to what people say about your business online. Seems like a no-brainer, and yet many organizations don’t- or find out about an issue way too late.
  3. Recognize customers are talking about you behind your back. Remember there are private conversations you can’t hear on Facebook and email that inform perceptions of your brand. Maximize every opportunity to surprise and delight clients – old and new.
  4. Be prepared for the expected unexpected. Have a timely triage process in place for when (not if) things do go sideways.
  5. Recognize employees. Celebrate team members that do get public praise. Turn their behaviour into best-practices.

I don’t know if these two baggage handlers work for Air Canada, or the local airport. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I saw two guys take good care of some precious cargo. For the simple act of taking care, I feel they should be thanked. And I hope Air Canada (or Victoria International Airport) recognizes them for doing a job well done. I’m sure I speak on behalf of the dog’s owner too.

If I ever have to go through the stress of flying somewhere with Willow, I hope she has these two guys to welcome her aboard.

About Joel Marans

Joel loves making people and organizations look, sound and feel great through creative uses of technology. When he's not fulfilling duties as a proud papa & husband, he leads brand and communications at Softchoice, one of the largest IT service & solution providers in North America.


  1. Anita Kardos says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! It is always a pleasure to hear about a great experience someone had at our airport. We’ve shared your post with the local Air Canada team here at YYJ and thanked Les, one of the Air Canada baggage handlers you wrote about, with a Tim’s gift card. Conner is off today but we’ll catch up with him and pass along our thanks as well. Have a great day!

    • Thank you for letting the public know their good deeds are being rewarded!! YAY to both of them for being so so caring to this puppy! There are still good people out there… and I’m glad this was caught and published!! Cheers!

  2. Ms. Érable says:

    Amazing comment below – it’s a circle of success!

    When we used to fly out West with our dog, we’d tape lollipops to the outside of her crate, along with a note “from the dog” telling people her name, how she didn’t enjoy flying, and not to let her out of the crate because she would bolt. We’d often get notes back saying thanks, telling us how she’d been OK.

    Customers and companies can work together to make business run better. You might think that as the paying customer, you should be able to just sit back, but if you knew things would work out better if you took part, why wouldn’t you do something?

    Thanks for calling out the extra care that these guys put in, Joel. Good work needs to be celebrated more often in my opinion.

  3. Tracey McDonnell says:

    Well Done Les!! Great work from our Jazz Team at YYJ…they are the best system wide, period!!!! 🙂

  4. Rampers should not be riding the belt while it is in operation at any time regardless they should have stopped the belt and walked the animal up WCB

    • Connor Larmour says:

      I didn’t actually walk up the belt- I walked along the vehicle, and held the dog as it rode the belt to a height where I couldn’t reach it.
      Slightly different than Joel describes, but seeing as he was 60 feet away looking through an airplane window, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      • The4thYDJST says:

        I am about to relocate with my dogs and have been putting it off because of fear. This reassured me that I had convinced myself it would be wrong by all the bad stories as the good rarely squeaks through.

      • Thanks for clarifying Connor!

      • Kristinitis says:

        Oh come on, give the guy a break. He went above and beyond- sometimes rules may be broken to do the right thing.

    • anzsdad says:

      And this is the sort of attitude that causes companies to get a bad image. “I can’t do this thing that any reasonable human being would otherwise have no trouble doing because my company MIGHT get sued.”
      Maybe the handler’s adherence to the rules wasn’t as strict as you (and the company lawyers) might like, but he took the time to ensure that one of his client’s was cared for, and that is appreciated. And I doubt that he didn’t ensure he was safe the whole time.

      • Andrew says:

        The rules are in place to protect all workers. They’re instituted by the company and vetted by the workers union, they prevent workers from being forced to do things that could harm them.

        It’s not just a matter of “the lawyers” making it hard to do the job. What may seem reasonable and safe to a 20 something kid, might not be as safe to an older person, so rules have to be made to protect everyone. A fall from a conveyor belt could be fatal. At the end of the day, these guys were able to work within the rules and still go above and beyond.

        • HerMamma says:

          A grown adult making a decision to do an act of kindness in a thoughtful and safe way should be applauded. Those rules are in place to stop a company from FORCING a worker to do a potentially dangerous act as part of their duties. An adult should be able to go beyond their duties at their own discretion.

          • petervq says:

            Well said – forgive, but I have a rant…. -:) :
            Had we a truly free society, adults would be free to make choices as they deem fit and appropriate to the individual situations, without apprehension about some absent person/stranger/’authority’ figure to come along after the fact to deliver some kind of pre-determined punishment because of not having complied with some pre-determined rules about how and how not to decide and act in some potential future pre-described case-scenario. In a free society, people would have more commonly been raised to become intelligent, thinking, self-responsible adults who are fully capable of understanding life and when and how to or not to step onto a conveyer belt and to understand they cannot blame some stranger/company in some distant office if they fall off the belt – Do we really ‘need rules to protect everyone’…??? really, is that at all possible!?!?! if so, why don’t we have rules to prevent people from riding bicycles…or so beyond a certain speed, cars, how about rules on handling kitchen knives, why no laws on an upper weight limit of shopping bags and maximum allowable distances for carrying them to the car in the parking lot… would be in the ‘public interest, yes, to prevent shoulder injuries from over lifting and loss of work hours and physio costs on tax-payer’s moneys… don’t we need a union to write laws on the use of lawnmowers, apple tree pruning shears, and safety laws on using slippery soap bars in the shower; heck, proper use of toilet paper which, after all, could get a little kid playing and all tangled and falling head over into the bowl… and then if people don’t obey the endless laws, gotta fine them heftily ( hey, the state-treasury will be happy) ?? Isn’t this idea that everybody must be everyone else’s keeper (well, more factually, that a few select people ought be everybody else’s keeper… and ruler) and that in some soon future we can eradicate risk from the planet and that some utopian day we all will truly be equal and safe and comfy rather utopian in itself? Goodness…where will it end?!
            Living comes along with risk; so educate people, give them skills, teach them what you know about safety… and whatever else, and then let them make their own decisions and let them be responsible for their own actions. Of course I am all for work place safety and circumspection; but please, society, stop the threats of aggressing against people who make choices in and for their own lives as long as they don’t endanger other people’s lives.
            But, this is not just about work place safety; this mentality reaches into almost every corner of our whole lives these days. This same mentality runs through education and schooling, food’safety’ and what and what not we are allowed to eat and drink, what medicines we may and may not take, what we are allowed to say about vitamins, herbs, natural medicines, which vocabulary we are allowed to use in public and even private these days, and everything is not just tied to laws, rules, regulations but is so with threat of coercion, enforcement, punitive measures. Whence from did we get this ruling class who, as soon as they take a seat in some office, believe they become infused with higher knowledge of how everybody else ought to live their lives… and to boot, suddenly have the authority to coerce, enforce, punish – are they not also mere fallible, erring human people just as all other us supposedly incompetent people are?!!

          • Jeff Oliver says:

            Please tell us, which rules must we abide by and which ones can we ignore? How do we know the difference between a real rule and a nuisance? Whose judgement sets that bar?

            As a health and safety person, I can tell you that allowing employees to make their own judgements around the rules they believe they don’t need to comply with is a slippery slope. In the safety business, we call routine violation of safety rules “normalization of deviance”. When rules are violated and management does nothing about it (or worse, encourages it), then rule breaking becomes normalized until it eventually leads to tragedy. History is full of examples of dead workers whose rule breaking was condoned.

  5. Sylvie Drolet says:

    I remember worrying so much about the state of my new dog that I rescued from Mexico on the flight back to Montreal . “He wouldn’t be on the carrousel ?”I thought . Then when Yul (airport )”special baggage handler ” actually came through the doors carrying the huge crate ! I hugged him . He said ” he’s very special cargo” .

    We must make an effort to post more positive actions in this world on social media . It’s positive energy feeds positive in the world . The opposite feeds the other side . Notice I choose my words carefully …
    Peace .

  6. This.. made my day. We are adopting dogs from Egypt.. we hope the baggage handlers are as gentle as they have a long ways to go here!

  7. Joann Goodwin says:

    Good to hear a nice story for a change!

  8. Domenico B says:

    It should be like this all the time. We, customer deserves treatment like this, taking in account the high prices we pay for tickets.

  9. It is indeed unfortunate that good news and good serve seldom gets into the news!

  10. Lauren Daisley says:

    I flew my 110 lbs pup from Vancouver to Halifax with Air Canada Cargo last year. Their service was AMAZING! Our dog is not a great flier, and being so large can easily intimidate others. Everyone we encountered were so understanding and accommodating.
    My own flight ended up being delayed several hours in Toronto, so I was unable to pick up my boy right away. When I arrived, I found the cargo personnel had ensured that he had fresh food and water, and had also moved him to be in sight of his workstation so he could be monitored and not feel so lonely.
    After hearing all the horror stories about traveling with pets, it’s so great when some good ones come to light!

  11. Danielle says:

    When I’m working a flight with animals as cargo, I too, take great care to load or unload them as safety as possible trying to cause minimal stress to the little souls traveling. I never need a thanks or great job or vouchers or Tim cards or anything really. It’s my pleasure to help and make sure the fur kids are safe and calm.

  12. So yay … they did their job.
    Without shitting all over themselves this time.
    Although apparently violating the Canada Labour Code Part 2 with regard to Occupational Safety and Health while they did it.
    But … yay.

  13. This is an expectation. says:

    Obviously the ramp guy would ride or walk up the belt with the dog. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. You get praise for going above and beyond the standards set in place.

    Sorry. This isn’t deserving of a “good job” pat on the back. This is expected. This is why you pay for live cargo. This is why there are options with air carriers. If AC doesn’t want your cargo, I bet west jet does

  14. Umm…so a baggage handler didn’t abuse an animal? Be still my beating heart….(que slow clap)…


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  2. […] I am perfectly willing to entertain that idea too. Ultimately it does not matter whether this was staged or not (though baggage handlers taking good care of a dog is an odd topic for a social […]

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