A Tale of Wonderful Support

It just makes my day when a company takes responsibility for  errors, even when, actually *especially when*, the error isn’t their responsibility.

Mid February, I was with my husband and kids at the Albuquerque Sunport, waiting to get on a flight to Costa Rica, connecting through Atlanta.

We had to wake up super early to be ready and get through TSA with 6 of us. The kids were troopers. They were so excited, they almost didn’t mind waking up at 3am.

We got to the airport and through TSA with no trouble, got a coffee, refilled our water bottles, and made it to our gate, still riding high on pre-travel excitement. All went well until we’d boarded and were waiting to start moving. You know that moment when you feel like you’ve been sitting on the tarmac for just a tad too long?

Sure enough, the captain’s voice came over the speaker. “Folks…,” he said. And then he went on to explain how there was some part that was, well, pretty essential for flying that wasn’t working. He told us that the part was on the way and we’d try and get going within 4 hours. I got on the phone with Delta immediately but our alternate flight options were atrocious. So we decided to just be patient and hope for the best. After all, we had a 6 hour layover in Atlanta. No worries.

Well, 4 hours turned to 5, then to 6. Throughout the morning, we kept wondering about other flight options and were somewhat worried we would be sleeping at home, trying again in the morning. Finally 7 hours later, the mysterious part arrived, was installed, and we got under way. Meanwhile, we missed our connecting flight, were stuck in Atlanta overnight and rebooked for the next morning.

Now, flight agonies are no rarity. What I find rare, however, is when an airport and an airline go out of their way to ease the pain of a situation that is out of their control. Let me list the things that Delta and the ABQ Sunport did right:

Immediately after deplaning, free coffee, soda, water, juice, crackers, cookies, and fruit were brought to the gate area. This was continuously supplied throughout the day.

Shortly after the coffee and stuff appeared free burritos and breakfast sandwiches (the sandwiches were kind of gross, but I give them points for effort and the burritos were yummy) showed up.

We were encouraged to help ourselves. There was no sense of scarcity, we were urged to take as much as we wanted.

Around lunchtime, fresh pizzas from a great local pizza shop showed up. Again, no scarcity.

When we got to Atlanta, we found a Delta help counter and the attendant immediately gave us vouchers for a hotel. We hardly had our story out and she was printing the vouchers and handing us toiletry kits.

We did have a small snafu in that we had to run all over to find our luggage, but this was actually due to a kind airline worker who, in ABQ, asked us if we wanted our bags that night or if we wanted them to stay at the airport. Apparently this is uncommon because in ATL the woman who gave us our toiletry kits was surprised we had luggage to collect. So I thank that kind woman who had the foresight to make sure we had PJs to wear that night.

The next morning, while standing in complete confusion in the Atlanta airport trying to figure out which checkin like to get into, a Delta employee directed us to a line with less people in it because he saw we had 4 kids in tow.

The woman at the counter took special care to reseat us as close to each other as possible since we lost our initial seating arrangements.

Now, I did lose my cool for a moment at the ABQ Sunport. I tweeted in a moment of rage to Delta. Not only did they respond immediately, but they also gave us flight vouchers and free miles for each of us. I didn’t even hardly have to ask.

What followed in the DM was a kind, patient interaction. They immediately acknowledged that they sucked and here’s how they were going to make it better.

Amazing.

Here’s the thing. As a company, Delta knew they made my life miserable. They couldn’t fix it and get me to my destination in time. But they could give me something, at little cost to them, that would win my loyalty and trust.

What a simple thing. Yet so valuable.

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