7.28.2011

Spirit In The Sky

An airline that takes "the friendly skies" seriously is a real blessing.
While I don't want this blog to become an advertisement for a particular company or product, I don't mind telling you that I am NUTS about Southwest Airlines.  In addition to their low fares and the fact that they serve honey-roasted peanuts, here's why:  Last October, I found myself fogged in in San Francisco, facing a three-hour delay as I tried to get home from the National Forum. During a long delay like that, customers aren't necessarily friendly or patient. But I was trying to be both as I questioned the Southwest gate agent about our connection in Los Angeles. I'd arrived at the airport plenty early, so I was eager to look at all of my options so as to not get stuck in CA for an unscheduled overnight layover. I was told by the lady at the counter not to worry because they would likely hold the plane in LA for us so that we didn't miss our connection.
   So if you're like me, you're laughing now, right? You're thinking that there's NO way that they're going to hold a plane in LA for over an hour so that a few fog-laden passengers can make their connection. Exactly. I heard what she said, but I didn't really believe her. I went back to the counter two or three more times just to see if I'd get the same story. Sure enough, each time she was pretty sure that they'd be holding that plane. "Well, if they hold that plane for us, I'm going to be super surprised" was what I said over and over to myself, but who knows? I've never heard of anything so customer-friendly, but maybe?
   When we finally left San Francisco, it was a little after the time that our connecting flight was scheduled to depart LA, so I was certain that we were stuck. I was figuring out a plan in my head as I flew south. Surely I know someone in LA who can help me out when (noticed I wasn't even saying IF) I get stranded there overnight. But, I was wrong. After we got our welcome to LA and as we were taxiing to the gate, an announcement confirmed that Southwest had, in fact, held the connecting flight to Houston and they respectfully asked the other passengers to please let those of us with a Houston connection make our exit first. Unbelievable!
   Evidently examples like this abound with this company. Last December, I saw online that a pilot held a plane again, this time not just for a mom like me who was eager to get back to her family after a long weekend away. This time it was for a man whose grandson had been killed, a dad who needed desperately to make it to Denver to comfort his daughter at the loss of her little boy. This pilot put his on-time departure stats aside and waited twelve minutes for this single customer to arrive at the gate and board his plane to make his connection to Colorado. And his employer - you guessed it, Southwest Airlines - supported him and said they were "proud" of the compassion he showed to this grieving grandfather.  Just this June, another delay when I flew home, but this time it was because the pilot insisted on deplaning to pay his respects to the family of the fallen soldier whom he'd just brought home to his final resting place.  Spirit In The Sky, obviously so much more than just a clever campaign catchphrase to this awesome airline.

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