“Let me stop you right there and catch you up on how this works,” the man at the American Airlines Platinum desk said to me this morning on the phone. After his extremely condescending explanation about how we should have used more miles to purchase an upcoming trip–even though we were already booked mostly in business, I had what I thought was an epiphany: can customer service and loyalty really be dead in the airline industry? It was an extremely frustrating conversation that ended up with me sadly hanging up and shaking my head.
1.7 Million Miler = Rubbish
Having spent a considerable amount of the last decade on an AA plane for a previous global role, I figure I am fairly knowledgeable about how this works. Yet the last several experiences on what used to be my carrier of choice in the sky, I feel that the special touches as a frequent flier become more diminished each year.Today’s occurrence was nothing new…yet I started to think about companies that really do stand by customer service and trying to always make it right.
Fitbit gave me a full replacement on my wearable device when it wasn’t properly tracking my steps. Apple has traded not one but two iPhone SEs when the cellular reception was weak. Even though it may be a provider problem, they stood by their product. As I thought of the customer loyalty that Apple has, I had a figurative “light bulb aha! moment” and thought of a recent happening that might just restore my faith in an airline and make me a converted and true customer for life.
Let me set the scene: a family member very close to me had emergency open heart surgery a few weeks ago, and many of us flocked to Lubbock, Texas to be by her side. I was there a week, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the lovely people at both the Wyndham Hawthorne Suites and the amazing team at Covenant Health a special thank you for their kindness during a hard time. And one thing happened at the airport when I was trying to catch a Southwest flight home on standby that I won’t soon forget.
Tired Traveler Seeks Seat Home
My loved one was recovering beautifully, and I attempted to get home–to a certain desert city of sin–on a holiday weekend. Yes, I knew my chances that Friday afternoon were slim. Yet after an emotionally draining week, I had to try. You can imagine my sigh when plane one left the gate without me on it… I went back to the podium to ask Melissa, the gate agent, my chances for flight two. I missed it by one person, then promptly burst into tears.
Melissa immediately came around the service counter and enveloped me into a hug. I felt embarrassed about my emotional reaction and even farther away from home, yet her kindness (and the hug) made it somehow better. The story ends on a happy note: I got to spend one more night at the hospital with family, and I ended up making it home the following afternoon with no problem.
And the moment I checked in for my flight, Melissa had my security pass pre-printed and ready for me with a smile. We chatted briefly–and I was again touched by her kindness when she worried if I was able to find a hotel room in a college town on the first football weekend of the season. I assured her all was well and asked if there were a supervisor I could share her wonderful treatment of me. She demurred, and soon after, I was on a flight home.
The Moral? Kindness Can Be a Core Value
This week’s post is not my typical travel blog, yet the story and thought behind it is something that will stick with me for a long time. Emulating loyalty and kindness is certainly worth aspiring to, and I would much rather be on that end of the customer service spectrum. Thanks to companies like Southwest Airlines, whose actions of loving their passengers seem to go viral weekly, role models to emulate really do still exist.