Surprising Service

Airlines aren’t exactly, shall we say, known for going out of their way to treat customers as you want to be treated. Extra charges for baggage. Extra charges for food. Extra charges for making a change. Crowding another row on the plane then extra charges for seats with more legroom.

Yet, recently, two airlines went out of their way to, shall we say, do good.

Our youngest booked a flight to spend Spring Break at her brother’s new home in Nashville. Then she tore her labrum playing intramural basketball and had to have surgery, which took place hours before my father-in-law died… so she cancelled the reservation. Once things settled down she contacted United and explained the situation, filled out a form, and – voila! – they already refunded the money.

Last week, as I sat in the Calgary airport terminal minutes from boarding, the Air Canada gate agent made an announcement that started with eight words you never want to hear just before a flight: “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you…” I knew what was coming next. Either “our plane is having mechanical problems” or “we’re awaiting the arrival of our crew.”

In fact, she said, “the entertainment system on our flight is not operating, so I hope you’ll take the next few minutes to download a movie or buy a magazine or book to read.”

To my surprise, once airborne, a flight attendant walked the aisle and handed everyone a card that reads: “We are proud of our entertainment system and regret that you did not have an opportunity to enjoy its use today. As a token of appreciation for your understanding, please accept this offer for a discount on future travel.”

It doesn’t take a lot to make customers feel good about your organization. Perhaps the place to start, shall we say, is with empathy and understanding.


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