I was happily on my way to the CESSE conference in Providence (6am flight Leaving from Rochester, 50 minute layover in DC – Flight 3426 if United Airlines is listening). We boarded on time but just as we were about to leave it was announced that there was a minor technical issue that would delay the flight and the only people that could address the issue started work at 7am.
1st Thought: I am definitely going to miss my connecting flight!After a quick search on my phone I realized that there were no other flights out of DC to Providence. I had a CESSE speaking session at 3:30pm and if the plane did not leave ASAP I needed to disembark immediately and drive to Providence (a 6 hour drive). I informed the stewardess of this and she told me to hold tight as they were trying to expedite the fix. She worked frantically with United to coordinate getting a technical person onboard early to fix the issue and informed me that she thought I could make it.
2nd Thought: Win for United – this Flight Attendant is Awesome! We took off and the pilot announced that he had made up 11 minutes and we were only 15 minutes late! It would still be a rush but I (and many others with close connections) would make it!
3rd Thought: Win for United – I am so happy!Next we all deplaned onto the tarmac to wait for the baggage handlers to get our carry ons back to us. It was very noisy and hot but all of us seemed just happy to be able to make our connections.
This is where things got ugly for United. For over 5 minutes we waited, watching 5 baggage handlers (with the some of the luggage just sitting on the conveyor belt) doing absolutely nothing – literally standing around while all of us watched precious moments tick down…
No one from United did anything…. No United personnel came over to the increasingly disgruntled crowd or explained anything.
4th Thought: These lazy bozos are going to make me miss my connection!But then something completely amazing happened: the pilot (seeing that we were disgruntled and that the baggage team was just standing around) got out of the cockpit and jogged over to the luggage sitting on the conveyor and ran back and forth multiple times to deliver 2 bags at a time to the waiting passengers. I said to a person next to me “There is a guy who gets customer service”
5th Thought: Even if I don’t make my connection I am so impressed. Huge United win – I am going to blog about this! Every person in the crowd was amazed by the initiative of this pilot. But then some equally amazing happened….. A (I am guessing) baggage handler supervisor and his assistant came roaring up in a car hopped out and screamed at the pilot “You can’t do that” and the pilot came over to us and said he was sorry but he had to stop. I gave him the thumbs up and many others thanked him for trying. The supervisor and his assistant said nothing to the useless baggage crew and walked over behind us and talked with each other FOR ANOTHER 5 MINUTES while we waited for his crew to finally (unhurriedly) get our luggage. I got my bag and said to the supervisor “Great job at stopping the one guy at United who was helping us” . He did not reply but simply shrugged his shoulders – he obviously could care less.
Final Thought: Wow – one person ruined an amazing 2 hour effort by the flight attendant and the pilot to do their jobs and deliver an outstanding effort under trying circumstances. It should be obvious but great customer service is a team sport and no matter how many stars that make spectacular plays you have, one slug/under-performer can take down a winning team. The team needs to be (pun intended) UNITED in their focus to deliver a win for the customer.