Sometimes Plan-B Works

I always like it when my plane appears at the gate
I always like it when my plane appears at the gate

No one, and certainly no company is perfect. Things go wrong. I’m not suggesting that we should look forward to things going wrong, but we should give at least small praise to people and companies who do well when things go wrong. That’s what I’m doing today. Ironically, these two stories are related to problems encountered during travel, a subject I normally rant about. From ranting to praise? That’s the difference that people, and technology can make.

 

Locked-Out

During my business trip to Washington, DC, I returned from dinner one night and found that my key-card wasn’t working. I was tired, it was late and our meeting was scheduled to resume early the next day. I went to the front desk, where a nice young woman apologized and rescanned my key-cards.

They still didn’t work.

When I returned to the desk, the woman called her supervisor. He accompanied me to my room, and when I inserted the key-card, he said: “oh, I see, the batteries are dead.”

Being the geeky guy that I am, I always wondered about electronic locks and power issues. I assumed that they were battery operated, since there are no visible wires, but I always wondered if the lock units were autonomous or if they somehow, wirelessly, had to call the mothership. Apparently, they are autonomous, battery powered and they communicate battery status with a flashing light sequence.

The Hotel Engineer had left for home about 25 minutes earlier. As the supervisor began working the list of people who could change the battery, the woman suggested that I could wait in the lounge, and said that I could order anything I wanted from the bar.

I quietly questioned the wisdom of offering free alcohol to a man who could very well become increasingly frustrated during the evening.

She offered to change the channel on the TV set in the lounge. She extended her bar offer to the snacks in the self-serve market place. She promised to keep me informed. She let me know who had been called, his ETA and that she had already retrieved a set of spare batteries for him to install.

35 minutes later, I was told that I could return to my room. Before I returned, the woman gave me two $13 dollar (I know, odd amount) gift cards that could be used at the bar.

Clunk

Last week, as my 6:00 am flight to Atlanta began to taxi to the runway, the pilots “exercised” the control surfaces. Rather than that all-too-familiar “whir whir whiiiiirrrrr” sound, we heard a series of clunks, and we felt small vibrations. ‘Clunk, clunk, shake’ is never good on a plane.

This is your pilot. We’re having a slight mechanical issue. A maintenance team is on its way out to check our hydraulic system.”

This is your pilot. The maintenance team has requested that we return to the gate so they can effect repairs.”

This is your pilot. Delta’s home office requests that you remain on the plane while the maintenance team completes these repairs. We should be underway shortly.”

This is your pilot. The maintenance team is going to remove a hydraulic pump from another plane and install it on this plane. We should be underway shortly, but you are free to return to the gate.”

This was mildly disturbing, as it sounded like something I might have done when I used to maintain my Dodge pickup truck.

This is your pilot. Repairs are underway. We should be ready to depart by 9:00 am.”

Accck! My connecting flight to Orange County, California was scheduled to leave Atlanta at 9:55 am, and BDL to ATL is a 2-hour flight.

By the time I was off the plane, there were about 150 people in line at the gate. It was 7:15 am. I opened the Delta App on my iPhone. The app “knew” that my flight had problems, and immediately presented me with two options: 1) I could rebook from the app. 2) I could contact Delta. I decided to try human contact first.

The voice mail system answered my call by name and the computer voice let me know that they were aware of the problem with my flight. I was told that I was being transferred to a representative that could help me.

Despite preparing myself for a long wait time, a woman answered within 15 seconds. A human woman.

Hello Mr. Antion. I see we are having some trouble with your flight. Can you tell me what you need to do today?

Hi, I need to get to Orange County Airport, no later than 5:00 pm, Pacific Time. Also, I had booked Economy Comfort seats and I would prefer having the extra legroom, at least on the longer flight.”

I can understand that. Give me a few minutes, please.”

Within a few minutes, she had me booked on a flight leaving BDL at 8:15 am, flying through Minneapolis and arriving in CA at 1:09 pm – Economy Comfort all the way.

Is there anything else I can do for you? Do you have any questions?

Will someone know to move my luggage to the new flight?

I have already requested an expedited move for your bag.”

The bag tracking option in the app confirmed that. I looked over that the gate, and the attendant was still helping the same customer. I love it when technology works!

68 thoughts on “Sometimes Plan-B Works

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  1. Re; Delta – Hey, you know, sometimes there are people out there who write good software – :-).
    Did the maintenance guy on the plane come out in a greasy old truck in dirty overalls, chewing a cigar? That would have made you feel really at home. Third :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That really would have made me feel better. Those guys know what they’re doing. I was more concerned that they would be reusing things like bolts and O-rings that should be replaced with a new pump. The software seems to be working well. It didn’t start out that way, but I guess you have to release that beta version :)

      Like

    2. One of my personal favorites. Shortly after departing SFO for the Far East, we experienced a thunderous noise followed by unatural silence. Soon, an all too casual pilot announced, “you are probably wondering what that noise was — as are we.” “We’re going to level off here and dump fuel and let our computer talk to company computer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha – I’ve mentioned in replies to several comments, that many of my coworkers travel a lot more than I do. Stand, you and David have that in common. I think you guys have been everywhere.

        Like

  2. I love happy endings :)
    Too often we hear only the crappy stuff, but the real measure of customer service is how a problem in handled. In this case, it was well done.

    As an aside, why does it seem that these key cards always seem to fail late at night?!! I had a similar experience … without the 2 x $13 complimentary gift cards ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These did end pretty well. As to the key cards failing at night, I don’t get it. I did have the thought: What if it had failed when I went out for coffee prior to leaving for my train? – That would have been a problem. I guess, from now on, I’ll pay attention to those flashing lights.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I never knew about the flashing lights on the card reader. I’ll pay more attention to that in the future.

    I’m impressed with the service you received using the Delta App. WOW! Good for Delta, and great that you made it to your destination on time and safely!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I learned something today – I had no idea how the keycard readers in hotels worked though I had always wondered what would happen if there was a power failure.
    Good on Delta for fixing things as smoothly as possible – that has not been my experience with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I was able to pass on some knowledge, Norm. It’s a nugget I’m going to pay attention to from now on.

      My previous experience with Delta has also been a mixed bag. I’ve talked about that here, so I felt it was important to give the good stuff equal time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Technology and a few very nice people certainly helped you out in tough situations. Even though you had to wait to get back into your room, I would give Marriott bonus points for their “do not disturb” football door hanger, along with a free drink and odd-numbered gift cards (is $13 what it costs for two drinks or one drink?).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan, I always travel Delta (Economy Comfort) on west/east coast trips. Have had nothing but a positive experience. Good to know about the hotel keycard reader. See, I learn techie things from you! Have a great Monday and October start! 🍁 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  7. No matter how brutal the circumstance I never, repeat never, was offered anything while waiting for a hotel to make a wrong right. Also, I had the same flight problem as you and did the same thing. I cannot understand why anyone would use a gate agent and hope they all keep doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. SO nice to read these two positive stories. Customer service is all too rare these days, so I think celebrate and share as many good stories as possible. My favorite airline is Southwest and my husband’s been very impressed by the service from WOW, our cable company.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet. I like Southwest, but my experience has been that they aren’t as nimble when things go wrong. I wrote about flying the day of the fire in the Chicago radar facility. I was booked on Southwest, and they couldn’t even answer the phone, and their website crashed in the early hours. I was on the 2nd leg of a 3-stop flight – Hartford – Salt Lake – Des Moines – Hartford. Delta answered in minutes and was able to book me (at a very high price) on a 1-way ticket from Salt Lake City to Omaha. They also had a lot of flights effected by that same fire, but they had backup operations.

      Afterwards, Southwest wouldn’t even talk to me until 24 hours before my final flight. When I asked if they could do anything about the extra money I had to spend, because they couldn’t respond before I had to fly, the agent checked with a supervisor and said “my supervisor authorized me to apologize to you on behalf of Southwest.”

      That was small comfort :(

      Like

  9. I have never even thought about how the magnetic keycards work so this was informative. I’ve certainly taken my share of cards back when they don’t work (especially when hubby puts it next to his magnetic money clip), but never thought about the machinery involved. You sure received good customer service. With regard to the travel, I certainly applaud your stamina handling all the trips you make. I use to do it too, but these days it is a lot harder, but the extra money for the extra legroom on long flights is worth every penny. I think you might need to write a post about the app so the rest of us can figure out how to ‘effectively’ use it. I have airline apps but certainly never put them to good use like you did. Applause again for exceptional customer service which is something we use to take for granted and now find it so exciting when we receive it. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy, I’m glad you liked this post. I have complained about poor service here, so I felt it was only right to highlight some good service. Initially, the airline apps were little more than links from their websites. These days, they are very powerful. I think, in the case of Delta, it’s the back-end integration that makes this all work. The voice mail system knows my cell phone number, the agent knows my flights, status and preferences and the system knows where my bag is. The agent actually apologized for not being able to give me an aisle seat. I was ecstatic to be able to get to California on time for dinner :)

      I am growing tired of travel. I look forward when I will be able to consider driving to see my brother in Iowa, or maybe meeting him somewhere in between. I have a few years left before retirement, so a few more meetings to attend.

      I don’t complain though. I have coworkers who are on the road way more often than me. I used to travel about 80% of the time (when I was consulting) – I could never do that again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the explanation. I download an app when we are traveling on a certain airline but guess I’ve never had to actually call them. For that, I’m grateful. :-) After getting back from Ireland and going through two sets of security lines and one Customs my husband said the next trip we were taking was going to be in the car. :-)

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      1. That’s the thing when you travel. One never knows how it really turn out. You don’t have control over others’ actions. Ours yes but those of other people, no. And then there is the weather …. gee I could go on and on. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  10. This was a few snafu’s but the key card one took awhile at the end of a long day! You sounded like you were able to hang out in comfort and hope you were able to get something to take like snack bags or something which could be transported with you on the trip ($26 is a pretty good amount.)
    The plane issue of transferring long legs space and luggage all done with a human on the line, also app showing luggage is amazing, Dan! Hip hip hooray! :D

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, Dan so glad it all worked out fine! This was nice to have had positive responses in both situations. The public relations department for both should “comp” you a little anyway! :)

        Like

    1. Thanks Val. I go back and forth with Delta, but the twice in the past couple of years when I’ve needed help, they have come through, big-time. I was really surprised by the key-card incident. I was really glad that I hadn’t stepped out in the morning, to get coffee before having to leave for my train.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Maybe the pilot stayed in your hotel , got the $13 bar coupon , used it ………………. I sometimes wonder if some of the delays are times when they’re actually trying to see if the pilot is sober enough to fly the plane .

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Being in the service industry for 11 years and serving more than a quarter of a million customers I think no amount of technology can replace a human customer service. Technology can make things faster, better, smoother, efficient, but it requires a human touch to make it memorable. With regards to flying, I have never had the experience so far. I think one of the reasons why I don’t like/prefer flying is all that procedures with regards to baggage and security. I don’t have the patience for that, maybe because I haven’t done that. I don’t like the idea of my baggage put somewhere else, I prefer it to be with me, by my side. With Indian Railways I don’t have to go through security, no baggage check, no passenger check, my baggage travels with me, so I can walk in the railway station 5 minutes before my train departs and I’m still all fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I prefer traveling by rail, for the same reasons, Sharukh. But, we can only go so far by train, at least for business. I can’t spend 3 days getting to a place in only staying 48 hours in. As for customer service, human contact is best, by far.

      Like

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