Thank You American Airlines!

Thank You American Airlines:

Air travel is hectic on a good day. Air travel during peak holiday seasons starts at chaotic and far too frequently moves to frustration, panic, and anger. Today could have been one of those days. It wasn’t.

It wasn’t; because the team at American Airlines at DFW were committed to preventing a difficult travel day from turning into one of those urban legends of uncaring bureaucrats, greedy management, and slothly moving union workers that focus more on their needs then on their customer’s needs.

And I want to shout to the world of naysayers, those hold over nattering nabobs of negativism about the state of affairs at American businesses. I want to shout out that My Airline rocks. That My Airline helped me, my family, and 10 others today and I want to say thanks from the top and the bottom of my heart and my mind. Today’s actions is why I fly American Airlines first and all others second.

My VeraSage Colleagues enjoy the debates of whose airline is superior. Ron Baker, Michelle Golden, and others feel that their United and its Star Alliance is the best solution. Our Australian members frequent Quantas (a One World Member). Our Canadian members support Air Canada, and the list grows. I support American Airlines. Loyalty has its rewards and as Baker likes to point out, frequent flyer programs have proved to be extremely profitable mechanisms for airlines (along with hotels, car rental companies, steak houses, and many other service businesses).

I really have no idea (but we I think we’ll start a clicker of airline miles flown and earned amongst our fellows) but I suspect that VeraSage team members probably fly nearly a million miles or more annually. I have over 2.5 million miles on American since 1991 along with hundreds of flights on Southwest, Alaska, and a couple of other puddle jumpers (even 50,000 or so on United including 1,500 just last week {thanks Baker for having my bag fees waived, much appreciated}). I know that Ron has almost as many air miles as I do, if not more, and just thinking about Ed, Tim, Michelle, Peter, John, the two Pauls, and the other fellows, we know a thing or two about airlines, airplanes, routing, and service successes (and their failures).

Today was a success. Along with my family, I was awaiting to board a 757 flight from Miami to Dallas in order to return home from a birthday celebration and weeklong cruise in the Eastern Caribbean. The inbound flight from Caracas arrived about the time we should have been boarding.

Delays in Miami, like any hub, are inevitable, and this being the American Thanksgiving weekend (I was asked on Thursday by a nice British Lady to explain our Thanksgiving and its importance – always proud to help the decedents of our former tormentors about our history on this side of the pond), delays can wreck havoc with connections and the like. In our case, we had about 90 minutes cushion on the Dallas side, so I wasn’t too worried.

As life unfolds during these types of travels, once we boarded (about 50 minutes late) (now down to 40 minutes of cushion) there was a mechanical issue of some form. Tick tock, tick tock. As my cushion dipped below 30 minutes I called the Executive Platinum desk and expressed my concern that we could miss our connection and I wanted to provide them a “heads up” and see what provisions could be made while we still had time.

I was assured capacity on the later flight (4 hours later) that would have landed at 11:15 PM (or 2:15 AM Miami time). This would be better than a night at the DFW Hyatt – so I already felt better. Status with airlines helps; ask any frequent flyer.

As my cushion was approaching zero, I called again to advise the desk of our timing. At this point the Captain explained he was going to “hustle” to DFW but our estimated landing time was now 4:40 and when you add the 10 minutes to the gate, that was to leave us about 10 minutes to transit from Terminal A to Terminal D – so I was anticipating the change to the late departure.

Upon landing, I again called and checked the status of our departure (which was to be in 9 minutes from the time we connected with the gate) and I expressed that in my best (pre-Nicole Brown era) O.J. Simpson impression, it just wasn’t going to be enough time (forget about the bags btw).

And then, as I was in the process of securing four seats on the later flight, over the PA it was announced that Portland passengers were to see the Green Vest wearing agent at the jet bridge for a bus ride to our gate. Rock on. Systems can work. Judgments trump measurements. AA was making the decisions that matter and that mattered to me, my family, and my now 10 new Portland based fellow travelers.

Walking off the plane, we were escorted to an awaiting bus where we were given the (so far at least) once in a lifetime roadside view of DFW as we were driven to our gate. Off the bus and up the elevator and down the jet bridge and boarding our plane. Total time from gate connect to boarding was less then 12 minutes. Better then O.J. by about 10 minutes.

And. . . . not only did all 14 of us make it, our bags made it too. Think about that. AA could have dealt with the anger and frustration (note I wouldn’t be overly impacted by a 4 hour delay, but I deal with these matters differently then others) but AA didn’t take the easy option. They opted to rise to the challenge and they handled it well.

Why did they? I suspect because 14 was enough to hold a plane 15 minutes and deal with the “late departure” report. Was I the only Exec. Plat on this flight? I have no idea. Did this happen because starting in Miami I was alerting them to the challenge? Was it merely that 14 was enough? I guess I really don’t care. I care AA stepped to the plate and hit a home run.

And, it cost AA to do this. They held a plane so they will now suffer a lower on-time score. They dedicated team members to drive the bus, escort us, custom deliver our bags, tail to tail as they say, 100+ other flyers were slightly inconvenienced awaiting our arrival, and all of this just happened. Well not really, it happened because someone, somewhere, at DFW operations for AA – recognized a problem, delivered a superior solution, and turned what could have been lemons to lemonade.

I hope that your airline treats you with kindness like mine does. If not, send me a note, and I will have my airline happily contact you and help you realize that business cares, airlines care, and ultimately people care.

Thanks AA. You Rock!

P.S. – Upon arrival, ours were the 1st bags on the belt too.

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