These days it’s all too easy to find stories of complaints against airlines with sites like twitter giving travelers a platform to air their complaints in real-time while reaching thousands, even millions, of eyes. The main metric airline employees are evaluated on is their ability to keep to the schedule – the phrase “time is money” rings true in an industry saddled by sunk costs and already operating on razor thin margins. Often, this drives decisions based on the bottom line rather than keeping customers happy, but airlines that are in the business of moving people are often faced with challenges of a more human nature.
The crew on a recent United Airlines flight chose the passenger over the schedule in a great display of customer service. A man flying from San Francisco to see his dying mother in Houston had to catch a connecting flight in Lubbock, Texas, with only a 40 minute buffer. When the first leg of his trip was delayed, he became frantic: the Lubbock to Houston flight was the last of the day – if he missed it, he might never see his mother alive again. The United crew in San Francisco urgently radioed the crew in Lubbock, who decided to delay the connecting flight. The man (and his luggage) made it to Houston on time that night, where he rushed to his mother’s hospital bedside. She died the next morning.
Another show of choosing customer satisfaction over costs is from a Delta crew on a Boston to Atlanta flight waylaid by dangerous weather. With tornado warnings coming from Atlanta, the pilot had to divert to Knoxville, TN. After two hours on the tarmac airlines are required by law to provide water and snacks, usually a small bag of pretzels. Delta did one better – passengers were surprised to see a police car stocked with 60 hot pizzas pull up next to the plane. In a similar grounding situation in Savannah caused by Atlanta weather, Delta ordered 160 pizzas for its stranded travelers.
Whether dramatic gestures or small, how an airline chooses to treat travelers in stressful situations always makes headlines, and it’s usually not the good deeds that make the news. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find evidence of airlines showing a human side when it comes to treating passengers like valued customers instead of seat fillers. We’d love to hear any personal experiences you’ve had when an airline went above and beyond, even if it cost them time and money.