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.