Snow Happens:  Lessons Learned About the Importance Of Systems During the 2022 Snow Storm in Vancouver

In life and in business “snow happens” and how we deal with it makes all the difference.   Eager to see family we have not seen since pre-covid, my family and I headed to the Airport at 5 am on December 20th.   The day started with a broken-down airport shuttle bus but thanks to Uber we still managed to get to the airport 3 hours early for our USA flight. 

Whew – we had made it.  

What greeted us was crowds and chaos like I’d never seen before.   Line ups so long you couldn’t discern where they were going to or which one you should be in.  Our airline app was still saying “flight on time” so we found our line, got our luggage tags, checked our luggage and promptly received a “flight cancelled” notification. (This process was much longer and more stressful than that sentence).   So now what?   There were hundreds of people lined up at the Air Canada kiosks and 3 staff.  

I went and stood in the customer service line and after an hour the line had moved exactly 1 foot forward and we had two hungry-tired kids.  We made the decision to return to our hotel, feed our children and figure out what to do next.  

So, before I continue let me be really clear that as much as the above was stressful and sucked (as did the next several hours trying to get back to our hotel with broken transit and freezing temperatures) we are so privileged.  We were not stuck on a tarmac for hours and we live a life where we could afford to go back to a hotel, pay for an Uber, drop $150 at a gift store on hats and gloves etc..   I get that much of my complaints are privileged problems.

After finally getting to our hotel and feeding our kids we started trying to figure out “now what?”   Do we wait to be rescheduled?   Do we request a refund and rebook?  How long do we wait?   Upon receiving another email confirming our flight was cancelled and supplying a link to request a refund we figured we should probably try and speak to someone.   Three hours later (having fallen asleep while on hold) I spoke to a super helpful agent at Air Canada who helped us rebook for December 24th – we will be arriving just like Santa to some delighted grandparents.

But Where’s Our Luggage?

This then raised another issue – what about our luggage?  Where is it?   The agent I spoke to said it would be at the arrivals carousel – just go back to the airport and we should find it there.  Amazing – how simple.   So my husband and jumped onto the now working airport shuttle to go get our luggage. 

Did you know that those luggage tags you are given and diligently keep are entirely useless?  The airlines nor the airport seem to actually use them.  Because our bags were behind Canada Border Services’ line they would not let passengers in to collect their bags.  It took a few hours for them to figure out a plan and the plan they devised was to have 5 workers walk into a crowd of hundreds of passengers and take descriptive notes on the back of boarding passes. 

  • Mungal – 5 bags
    • Bag 1 large black
    • Bag 2 large grey
    • Bag 3 small black
    • Bag 4 small black
    • Bag 5 small blue

After an hour of searching they returned to ask what airline we were with and added that to the notes.

Two hours later the gentleman helping us and two other families came back empty-handed to all of us and moved on to another group so he could go and check each black bag for their last names.  

What should we do – he had no idea.  

I could think of at least 2 other plans that would have been far superior to the one thought of by YVR off the top of my head and I don’t run an airport!  The obvious one is to use luggage tags!  Scan my tag which should then tell you where my bag is – because of course you MUST be using those luggage tags as you move luggage around . . . right?  Failing that, how about escorting passengers in to find their own luggage?   I’m sure I could spot my luggage pretty quickly versus having this poor guy looking at each black bag for the name Mungal.  I could then prove it was mine with my LUGGAGE TAG.

So What? How Does This Apply to My Business?

So, why am I writing about something you’ve probably already seen loads of footage of in the news?   Because all of this got me thinking, in business – snow happens!   The airlines and airport had no control over the snow, they didn’t make it happen and they couldn’t stop it.   The few staff that were there were all working super hard and doing their best.   It was admirable that they weren’t running around screaming at people.  The ones that ventured into the throngs of people deserve medals for bravery.  Where the airlines and YVR utterly failed was in foresight and planning.  An airport is essentially a logistics business.  How could they not have a system in place that tracks luggage?   Even their online form to track your luggage requires you to have a tracker number (only attained after speaking to someone and putting in a claim) and a description of your luggage.  Again, at no point making use of that luggage tag they have so helpfully given to you at the beginning of your trip.  How could a logistics business the size of YVR be so lacking in what all of us assume is a core part of their workflow/systems?

I have an amazing group of people that work at It’s Your Time.  Again and again, they show dedication and a willingness to go the extra mile for our clients and us as a company.   This holiday I’m going to be thinking about all the times “snow has happened” and any potential “snow days” to see where our systems may be undermining the hard work of my team and causing major pain points for our clients.   If we know “snow happens” then shouldn’t we all be planning for it and ensuring our systems aren’t relying on perfect conditions in order to work?

Share this post