By Callie Oettinger | Published: April 14, 2017
I flew on Alaska Airlines this week.
Before the flight took off, I witnessed a first.
The pilot joined the passengers at the gate to announce a flight delay.
No microphone. No airline staff at his side. Just him. His voice. His proactive communication.
He thanked us for giving him our attention.
He announced the reason for the delay: The hydraulic lift connected to the flight deck broke.
He announced the steps being taken to address the delay: A team was working on fixing the lift.
He disappeared behind the gate door.
He returned to announce the lift couldn’t be fixed and that our plane would depart via a different gate. Again, he thanked us for our patience, and then disappeared behind the gate door.
The gate change was announced.
I went to the new gate. It was a Southwest gate instead of an Alaska Airlines gate.
The plane arrived, followed by the pilot, who explained why we were boarding at a gate operated by a different carrier.
The closest open Alaska gate was in a different terminal. Moving terminals meant moving through another security checkpoint, too. Instead, his team was using an open Southwest gate that was located near our original gate. However . . . The computer at the Southwest gate didn’t work with Alaska’s tech. His team needed a few more minutes to figure out how to load everyone, track the tickets, and so on.
Once the team on the ground had a solution, the pilot returned to announce it.
The solution: A gate attendant took our tickets and, using her phone, called in our info to someone with an Alaska connected computer on the other end.
Once we were all aboard the plane, the pilot greeted us at the door and the flight attendants invited my kids into the cockpit, to sit in the pilot’s seat (a first for them).
As the flight taxied toward the runway, the pilot made two more announcements.
He knew passengers had tight connecting flights on the other end. He’d gone to the powers that be and asked that they hold as many flights as possible so his passengers could make their connections.
Next he welcomed aboard Ray Chavez, the oldest living survivor of Pearl Harbor. I later learned from news reports that Chavez turned 105 earlier this year. At the time of the pilot’s announcement, I felt like something special was happening, but Chavez being on the flight felt like a blessing.
Alaska’s team showed that they are more than a few well-crafted paragraphs on a web site. For reference, the following appears on their site:
For over 75 years Alaska Airlines, and the people who make us who we are, have been guided by integrity, caring, ingenuity, professionalism, and a unique spirit. A spirit that was has grown out of our geographical roots.
We are product of our history and the amazing people found throughout it. Today, that product looks like a long list of aviation milestones, paired with countless stories of people going above and beyond to help others.
All of these milestone, good deeds, and community involvement have grown us from a small regional airline to an international carrier.
During a week when another airline made headlines for its treatment of customers, Alaska’s team was “guided by integrity, caring, ingenuity, professionalism, and a unique spirit.”
They were proactive in their communications.
They took responsibility.
The cared for their customers.
They were kind and they were patient.
They offered me a first: When airline travel has increasingly been an experience full of wrongs, they offered so many rights.
Seeing their team of pro’s in action was a beautiful thing.