Recently, I was booked on a United flight to Newark and then to Europe. I had booked this award ticket (coach) with a shorter-than-I-would-normally-like layover in Newark simply because I needed that extra time. If everything went as usual, it would not be a problem.
How One Airline Employee’s Attitude Can Make a Huge Difference
The Problems Start…
Of course, it didn’t go as it was supposed to and there was a 40 minute delay, leaving me just 20 minutes in Newark (not happening – I need to take a shuttle between the terminals). So, I began to speak with the gate agent about my options. I was already going to arrive later on any alternative that I really needed to so I just accepted that and tried to get something to get me in the next night.
Checking My Options
Thanks to my familiarity with Star Alliance routes between the US and Greece, I knew that the only option left to get me into Greece the next evening was with Turkish Airlines. I could either choose to fly to Washington Dulles and then to Istanbul or to Chicago and then Istanbul. I really do not like flying through Dulles and since it was a weather issue in Newark, both the agent and I thought I may have a better shot with Chicago.
I got to the gate and we boarded after a delay. The only problem was that after we got on the plane, the pilots announced there was a groundstop out of Chicago-O’Hare. Great. We were allowed to get off the plane to get something to eat or drink and while off the plane, I noticed that the Dulles flight was departing on time. Figures!
Backup Option Gone…
After we all settled back on the plane, another delay was announced – this one for an extra hour. I quickly grabbed my bags and got off the plane since I knew I would never make that flight now. I spoke with the supervisor at the gate about getting the Turkish flight around noon the next day out of JFK but said I knew they didn’t have flights to JFK. She said it was no problem, they would put me on Delta.
The Rebooking Process Begins
I got in line to change my flight, along with dozens of other people, and the agent at the gate flat out told me it wasn’t possible to put me on the Delta flight because the delay was weather related. I told him that the lady at the other counter had just told me it could happen. He refused and said that they are not allowed to do that and he wouldn’t do it for me.
The United Supervisor Who’s Approach and Attitude Made a Big Difference
I left that agent and went back to the lady that I had first spoken to and told her what he had said. She quickly grabbed her radio and called him. She asked why he wouldn’t put me on the Delta flight and he said it wasn’t policy for weather delays. She said, “Just do it.” He said, “On who’s authority?” At this point, the lady I was speaking with leans behind the other agents so she can see him and says, “ON YOUR SUPERVISOR’S AUTHORITY – DO IT NOW!”
This was the part that I thought was so unusual for an airline employee. She had continued to say, “If we do not start doing this with these passengers, they may be stuck here for days and I want to make sure they get where they are going. We will take care of all the other stuff later.”
I understand there is policy for what an airline says can and cannot be done and I appreciate that the supervisors have the power to jump over such policies when the circumstances call for it. However, I rarely encounter an airline agent that is willing to do that, especially citing the plight of the passengers as the rationale for doing it.
Airline Employees’ Attitudes Can Make a Big Difference for Passengers and the Airline – Positive or Negative
This supervisor was definitely one of the best I have ever seen with delays, always making announcements with laughter in her voice yet also apologetic for how it was disrupting plans. She spoke to everyone on the plane that had a tight connection/missed connection to give them options and tell them where they should go when they arrive in Chicago – she was just an all-around fantastic supervisor that was really looking out for and caring for the passengers on her flight. I made sure I told her how wonderful she had handled all of this as well and to thank her.
Thankfully, the Delta/Turkish flights worked out ok in the end and I arrived in Greece just 18 hours later than I was originally supposed to. If it wasn’t for this United supervisor, it would have been at least 24 hours and possibly much later.
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