Customer Service in the Air

Kindness in the Workplace

Why does it seem that when a flight has been delayed — the airlines act as if they have no control to make sure you make your connections? As if YOU are the one that has been delinquent to get yourself to the flight on time. Where has the “service” that we are paying for gone in the airline industry?

Last week, we flew on American Airlines from Portland, Oregon to Miami, Florida to catch a cruise with 8 other family members. We’d arranged the trip so we’d arrive the night before the cruise so we’d have a wide cushion. JUST IN CASE! Our first plane that morning was delayed for 1 1/2 hours due to a late arrival by the crew the previous evening. We had a fairly decent layover in Phoenix, AZ in between our flights so we weren’t really thinking much about it or worrying until we boarded our plane and were told that they were experiencing some kind of mechanical issue in the cockpit where a certain automated program was malfunctioning. We were told we’d have to go back to the terminal for a mechanic to look at it. When we finally took off we were about two hours late and it was unclear if we would make our connection to Miami. I started panicking. The alternatives if we missed the connection were bad. We’d arrive in the middle of the night in Miami if we could get there at all that night and perhaps our luggage wouldn’t make it in time for the cruise the next day. We needed to make our connecting flight.

I started to feel upset. My husband was anxious. We were sitting in the back of the plane and it seemed that we’d have such a tight window of time that even if we did land before our connection, we’d probably miss it by minutes. The flight attendant was incredible. After a calm discussion and thinking of all the possibilities, I asked if we did land before the other flight took off how likely it would be I could get off the plane quickly enough and actually run to the other gate in time, if that would make a difference. She told me that even when they announce that people have tight connections and ask that people stay seated if they don’t have to get off quickly, many people don’t heed the request. Some just get up anyway to deplane and don’t let those in the back get off quickly. I asked if she could move me to the front of the plane so at least I could attempt to run ahead before my family and “hold’ the plane. Gone are the days where flights know there are several people who’ve been delayed who need to make another connection and the airlines hold the plane for you.

The flight attendant did move me to the front of the plane. She did it with a flourish announcing to the other passengers that I’d needed to move forward. Making sure it seemed legitimate that I’d needed to be in the first row of coach before we landed. Once we landed, I sprinted across the airport to our next gate. The gate attendant asked if there were others in my party and warned me that if they didn’t get to the gate immediately and before the pilot asked him to shut the doors we wouldn’t be allowed to board. WHAT? You mean even though I am standing here and you know that our delay in arriving to this gate was due to something your company should be responsible for and I ran to the gate to tell you we are here you won’t let us get on? Ridiculous. Luckily my family arrived, just a few minutes after I did. We were indeed winded and out of breathe but smiling when we plopped down into our seats on our next flight.

I felt gratitude that night when I thought about the flight attendant who wouldn’t even know that we’d made our connection that afternoon and so did our luggage. She was a little angel in a challenging and difficult day of flying. To her I say thank you and to American Airlines and all the other airlines I ask you to remember that every time we choose to fly  your airlines your employees have the ability to help us make these experiences better with their kind actions! Please encourage and reward this kind of service.