Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why I don't hate US Airways right now

21 August 2007, 2:30pm UK time. I just arrived in England on US Air Flight 734, five hours behind schedule. The plane was two hours late getting to the departure gate from the maintenance hangar. We then boarded, and sat for nearly two hours while the pilot periodically told us about the progress the mechanics were making on the problem with the brakes. Then we got off the plane, moved down the concourse four gates to get on the other plane. While waiting to board, we heard that the mechanics had fixed the first plane. Finally we reboarded the original plane and took off at around 2:00 am.

Throughout the long wait, I'm saying to myself, "I've been reading about these horror stories all year. Now I'm in one." I waited for the passengers to start to melt down--first the small kids, then the adults, the flight attendants, and finally the crew. We'll be reading about this in the Wall Street Journal Middle Seat column soon, I thought.

So how come it didn't happen?

I've been thinking about this the whole flight. And the only explanation that makes any sense to me is the attitude and poise of the flight attendants, gate agents and crew.

They kept calm during the whole ordeal. They provided as much information as they had, when they had it. They apologized for the inconvenience, yet never got defensive. And once we got on the flight for the last time, it was all business.

Example: I asked for a glass of wine with my dinner, and fully expected them to charge me for it. I was ready with an obnoxious comment. But the flight attendant handed me the cup and the tiny bottle, and moved on without a word. She knew, the whole crew knew (and I should've known) that drinks were on the house for that flight. It didn't need to be advertised.