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Holiday flying--a report from the Field

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 In the last 13 days, I've worked ten!  That's a lot of flying.  Why?  I wanted to make up for having worked only four days in December BEFORE the 23rd (vacation).  We have had full, busy flights.  I've demonstrated the safety features of the aircraft over and over and served 2,000 plus drinks. That's the nuts and bolts of our work.  Let me share some moments of serendipity that make me smile as I remember them and keep me loving my job.

Children five- to 11-years-old can fly unaccompanied.  Understandably, during the holidays we have a lot of Unaccompanied Minors.  One flight had 15!  With one group, I introduced myself and began filling out their paperwork.  While doing this I asked their names and then said: "And what is my name?"  I had been through the routine five times and when the sixth child had my attention, I didn't ask if he remembered my name.  As I put his papers in his pouch, he looked at me and said: "Aren't you going to give me the test?!"  This same flight I remembered I needed to add something to the first child's paperwork.  I asked him to give it to me and told him I forgot to write something.  With a lisp he asked, "Is THIS your first time?"  Spending time with these children is a joy no matter how many times I've done it.

 Another large group are our Armed Forces.  I can't see these young faces without feeling almost a maternal pride.  As we entered the airport early for our first flight, I noticed a young woman in fatigues.  She was hugging her husband, and they were surrounded by two young children and a baby in a carrier!  I wanted to go in her place! One young man, again in fatigues, boarded last with tears in his eyes.  I said, "Do you need one more good-bye kiss?" and he leaned over and kissed me!  The Ops Agent said the soldier was with his wife and children in the gate area.  I'd love to be on their flights bringing them back home.

 Babies were everywhere!   I've never seen an ugly baby.  There's no better reason to fly than to spend time with grandparents and extended family!  One popular Christmas gift is a trip to Disney World!  It's a lot of fun seeing children's faces as they tell me where they are going! One family had twelve traveling together - grandpa was footing the bill.  A trip to remember.

Some of our flights were over two hours--one was over four hours.  This gives our passengers a chance to get well acquainted.  One particularly friendly group was exchanging addresses and phone numbers.  They agreed it was the best flight they have every been on.  That's the feeling we want our passengers to have.   

I wonder how many wheel chairs are in an airport?  Each flight had a long line of wheelchair passengers.  We had extra Ops Agents and Pilots helping the Sky Caps. Flying is a big deal to a lot of these passengers.  I must tell you about Homer.  He boarded first and sat on the first row by the window.  He is in his eighties--a snappy dresser!  We had time to talk while I was sitting on the jumpseat, plus it was a long flight. He asked me if I would come and live with him.  He paid $60,000 for his house in California, and it was now worth $240,000.00!  Before we landed, I saw him take a business card from the male passenger sitting beside him.  I thought, "How nice; he has made a friend."  Well, he handed me the card as he left.  He had written his name and phone number on the back of the other man's card and added "Call me some time."  I won't forget him and the memory will make me smile.  I hope he will do the same!

Holiday flying is hard work, but the kind that gives you a warm feeling afterward. 

 

   

12 Comments
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SWA Fan Kudos to SWA. I recently made arrangements to attend Celine Dion's concert in Kansa City, Missouri. Due to illness she had to reschedule the concert to six weeks later. When I called SW to change my flight date they were VERY accomodating. Even tho' my daughter and I had special fares they didn't have us pay a penalty for changing our flights. Because of this we were not out any extra expense for the change - our airfare, hotel remained the same. In visiting with other concert attendees I met 2 college students who flew on Northwest airlines. They said that they were (each) penalized $150. They too had explained why they were asking for a change in flight arrangements. NWA didn't care that they were changing due to no fault of their own or that college students usually struggle with financial issues. Boos to Northwest Airline!! Way to go SWA!! Thanks for understanding.
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I flew AUS-MDW-PIT on Saturday the 20th and flew back on the same route on Sunday the 28th. On two of my four flights, I grabbed the aisle seat in the second row on the left side and sat with two young men. I mainly was happy that I got a good seat. I also knew that with kids I could sit more comfortably, as they take up less space. I had one flight with two fat guys in the seats. That wasn't pleasant. I've noticed that just about all unaccompanied minors are products of divorce. I felt sad for them. Some of them seemed to be experienced flyers. One told me that he flew about "once a month." I also noticed that most of them are male. My guess for this is that most kids end up with their mothers and that the boys want to see their fathers more than their daughters do. Perhaps, the fathers also want to see their boys more. What's your theory? On Sunday the 28th, I observed that both of my flights had been overbooked. Having worked almost three years in the hotel business, I know that overbooking is a necessary evil. In the end, things almost always worked out for us at the hotel. On one of those, I called out to the flight attendant that a seat next to me was still not taken. I think they went and got a passenger who would have been bumped off otherwise.
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Great blog post, and thank you for all of the work that you do! I have taken two trips on Southwest, and I LUVed it!!! The flight crew is ultimately the biggest factor in a customers' in-flight experience, and every Southwest flight I have been on has been AMAZING! All of my flight crews have demonstrated the 3 WN attitudes well, and the awesome flight crews are why I will take Southwest EVERY time I need to travel!! Thank you for all of the work that you do!!! 🙂 "Either think and act big and grow smaller, or think and act small and grow bigger."-Herb Kelleher
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Carole, I always enjoy reading your posts, and I LUV your outlook on life. Brian
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Carole, Thanks for a great post! I LUV reading trip reports from Southwest crew members. Keep up the great work!
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Carole, Thank you so much for your update! Keep them coming. We love your stuff. Caleb
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Just want to thank you for all you do. My little brother is a Marine stationed in San Diego. You bring him safely home to us every holiday! He is always happy with the flights as they are inexpensive and the service is the best. So, thanks so much for bringing our Marine home throughout the year!
Active Member
Carole, Yay! I always get excited to see that you have authored a thread for the Blog -- as soon as I see your "byline" at the top, I just KNOW that it will be interesting, entertaining, funny and will sometimes bring tears to my eyes. I agree with you about the incredible men and women of our military branches; when I see them in an airport, the expressions on their faces usually tell me whether they are "coming" or "going". I have yet to have anything other than a grateful response when I go up and thank them for their service to our country. As you mentioned, traveling around holiday times can be quite an experience. I took the opportunity to non-rev several times in December, and was always exceedingly proud of the professionalism, courtesy and conscientiousness displayed by all five members of the crew on each flight I was on. Even our most regular Customers may not realize the strain and stress that flying multiple flights per day and dealing with hundreds of different personalities and temperments can create, and I remain in awe of the ability of our FAs to make each flight special for those onboard. Now, my goal for 2009 is to have, using your word, the serendipity to book some travel on one of YOUR flights so that I can observe my friend excelling in the environment where your POS is legendary! If nothing else, you'll have to send me your schedule just so I can book a flight to go wherever you're going one day! Kim CRBB :-) To alking -- thanks for the kind words about SWA. It is gratifying to hear from our Customers that they've noticed some of the differences between us and the other air carriers and that our efforts to go above and beyond do not go unappreciated! I sure hope that you and your daughter had a wonderful time at Celine Dion's concert last weekend! To Chris -- while I realize that some of our UMs are children traveling between parents, I hope that it is not always the case. When my children were young, we often put them on SWA to travel to visit their grandparents, so I try to assume the best when I see some of our younger Customers onboard! To bswitzer -- I am so glad that your brother gives us the privilege of transporting him to and from SAN. It is always a distinct honor to have any member of our military traveling with us, and we are proud that so many choose to fly on Southwest. Please extend my gratitude to your brother for his service! Kim CRBB :-) To all of our military folks and their families, here is a photo that I took recently in Austin. Seeing our flag flying proudly from the jetway brought a lump to my throat... [flickr-photo:id=3149111278,size=m]
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Kim, you just wrote a blog within a blog! Thank you so much for enjoying my musings! You are welcome on any of my flights! POS is always the goal. To go beyond that I need something t o work with. Give me a Friday night Mardi Gras group and I'm ON! Three hours late - that's my specialty. I'm still thinking about coming to the GO and having lunch with you. Returning to the airport after flying is hard. Yes, we have a lot of children visiting grandparents and also friends that have moved away. Of course, children visiting parents are the most common. A few cry because they are leaving a parent but most are "sky warriors". For some unknown reason, difficult passengers do not create stress for me. They create another opportunity for POS. That's true for a lot of us. The hardest part of the job for me is 10+ hour duty days. Then, the walk from some of our gates to hotel transportation. Or, having to leave the hotel and hour and a half before push (one hour is normal). And then number one, finally getting to the door of your hotel room and the KEY doesn't work! Here I go on another blog! Alking - we love to hear praise, thank you. I'm so happy SWA understood your problem. We look forward to many years of serving you. Thanks for reading the blog! I've also seen Celine and LOVED her. Chris, it does seem more boys travel alone. Do boys outnumber girls these days? Maybe parents feel more comfortable putting their boys on the plane. Boys may be more willing to leave one home for another. I'd guess dads want to see their little girls as much as their sons. Thank you for helping identify an empty seat! I love my passengers to be interactive! bswitzer, our Military are a top priority. Reuniting families is better than a vacation! I love to see the homecomings in the airport. Knowing our fares make this possible makes all of us proud. Thanks for the other sentiments! Carole
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Having worked most of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years at a Mega Station all I have to say is where do we draw the line between HPPT and Customer Service. We have always been on top of Customer Service and have preached and strived for "POS", but this Holiday season we failed from a front line persons view point. We ran short in every department and those who suffered were our Customers with long lines and long turns, misconnections and missed oportunity to provide fair, let alone, "Good", Customer Service. Supervisors ran short and worked more flights than agents. Ramp Sups were in each Aircraft bin, Ops Sups were merely Wheelchair pushers, Customer Service Sups were pulled in numerous directions. Customers sat on floors as they missed flights that had open seats because noone had the time to check to see if rerouting was an option as Mother Nature took her toll again this year. Bags missed flights because Sups were too busy loading to check on the numerous gate changes due to weather caused delays. Ops Sups ran from gate to gate pushing Customers in Wheelchairs. Customer Service Supervisors were pulled from one issue to another covering all 10 to 11 Gates unable to check connection and rebook. I speak for the masses and the numbers speak for themselves as far as performance goes. Delay writting and coding should now be apart of creative writing in schools as they are written off to so many causes that ones head would spin reading some of them. Simple fact is we failed on so many levels and most of this was caused to save a head count from each department. If each minute of delay actually costs our company even $5.00 a minute, it would of been MUCH, MUCH cheaper to add a missing scheduled person. I don't believe so much in over staffing, but if a department was scheduled 13, then they should of covered 13 shifts. This still is the GREASTEST Airline in the world, and just might be the Greatest Company as a whole and what makes us different than the rest is our Customer Service and now more than ever we can't afford to lower ourselves to the Others standard. Lets learn from this past Holiday season and be better prepared for the next. Cutting costs are enormously important to our future, but so are OUR Customers, external and don't forget our internal ones as well.
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Wish I could say our holiday experience was as positive as it usually is on Southwest. We were among the unhappy people on the flight that left Chicago for Portland, OR, flew 2-1/2 hours, only to turn around and come back to Chicago. We heard they were out of de-icing fluid in Portland, so while we could have landed fine (other flights were landing), Southwest could not have gotten the plane back out of there until the next day. We spent the night in Chicago (with our two kids and 84-year-old mother-in-law), sure that Southwest would somehow get us to Portland the next day. No such luck - all the flights were full, and none were added to accomodate the planeful of us who landed back in Chicago. And it took 3-1/2 hours to even get our luggage back in Midway. My husband and I are huge fans of Southwest and always recommend it to others as "not being like other airlines." This was the first time in 20+ years I can say I didn't feel that way about it. Last week we sent a letter to customer relations, so are hoping for the best.
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Anonymous and VMCarrie Your posts are timely and quite frankly, spot on. We spent this past week evaluating how our operation performed during the last couple of weeks of December and reached similar conclusions. There were several instances where we were unable to provide the level of Customer Service we, and our Customers expect. And just as candidly, there were times when we simply did not have enough staffing to meet the significant challenges the weather patterns of numerous days presented. We will be addressing these issues internally. VMCarrie, I hope you won't judge our Customer Service by this one incident, and I am sure that Customer Relations will address your issues. Anonymous, Thank you for your post, your obvious concern for our Customer Service and fellow Employees, and your candor. We appreciate everything you, and the rest of the wonderful Ground Operations Employees did for our Valued Customers! Matt Hafner Vice President Ground Operations