The flying experience can be so much more then getting from point A to point B. With so many complications arising and service levels eroding generally, many people feel more like they’re boarding a flying bus than the upscale experience of my father’s age of flying.
I wanted to share the story of a day where travel plans went awry, and yet it turned out to be a great day for a number of reasons. The story also includes a flight crew that made our day extra special in the midst of a bad day for them.
Side note: as a travel blogger, it’s generally my job to hop on board a flight and discretely start taking as many pictures as I can. To record as much of the experience to relay to my readers as possible. That didn’t happen in this case. Consider this a story of words, not pictures. I hope it leaves you with the impression that good service is still out there, roaming the wild looking for happy victims.
The day started with me recording an interview for my podcast. As I was in the midst of recording I received an e-mail from TripIt that there was a delay in our flight later that evening. Instead of a 10:30pm departure, we wouldn’t depart until 1am. This would cause us to miss our onward connection. With limited time, I had the choice to call Lufthansa, the carrier we were flying, or United, with whom we redeemed miles for our flights.
Initially, I called Lufthansa. While I was on hold I scanned the United website for award availability. Seeing availability for flights that would still get us to our destination on the United website, I decided to hang up and call United. I’m a 1K member with them, which meant virtually no wait. And, while I’ve had some pretty serious issues with United as of late, this call was a huge redemption for them. Mary Rose, who works in the Chicago call center, was nothing short of spectacular. Even though our delay wasn’t a United issue, she offered to request saver inventory on any United flight that day to get us to Europe. It turned out that another Lufthansa flight was our best option.
I noticed that the flight we were targeting actually had 3 seats in Lufthansa First Class. Though I’ve experienced it, my wife and kids never had. Could she ticket 3 of us in First and put me in Business Class? Mary Rose decided that wasn’t far enough. She put me on hold and found a way to track down a 4th seat in First Class. After some trouble with ticketing (while she kept apologizing for the delay), she conferenced us in with Lufthansa and then advocated on our behalf for child meals later that day. We were within 24 hours of departure, which would normally mean Lufthansa couldn’t take special meal requests. Mary Rose just didn’t want to give up. In short, it was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had with an airline phone agent in a long time.
First Class With A Side of Bad Manners
We were ready for a treat. The First Class cabin on the Lufthansa 747-8 taking us to Frankfurt only had 8 First Class seats in total. We all got settled in easily. The cabin crew was unbelievably accommodating, doting on our kids while making sure Michelle and I had a glass of champagne at the ready prior to takeoff.
Shortly after boarding, the purser made her way to me as she was greeting all the passengers. She advised me that one of the other passengers in the cabin had complained that there were children in the cabin and that he wouldn’t be able to sleep. At this point, we were still on the ground and our kids were being very well-behaved. They generally are, but I assured her we would talk to them and reinforce the complaint. The kids both understood and remained quiet for the entire flight.
Much later in the flight, the purser came back to apologize for addressing it and complimenting me on how excellent the children’s behavior was. I assured her no apology was necessary and said that I understood the other passenger had likely paid a lot of money for his ticket and wanted to be sure he could sleep. She replied that I had spent a lot of money as well (I hadn’t, thank goodness for miles). I said something to the effect of, “Hey, I used to be one of those guys that complains all the time. It’s just not worth it.”
A weird look came over her face and she started sharing a story with me that produced a pit in my stomach. Lufthansa has a top-tier status level called HON Circle, which is essentially for folks who live on airplanes and mostly in premium cabins. These are the elite of the elite road warriors. I had noticed a family board our flight with us from the First Class portion of the Lufthansa Senator Lounge at Dulles. They proceeded upstairs to sit in business class.
Apparently, the father/husband (who was HON Circle) got a seat where the remote control wasn’t working with the in-flight entertainment system. The touchscreen worked, but the passenger wanted to use the remote. There were empty seats in the cabin, so the purser offered him a pair of seats elsewhere for him and another family to relocate. That answer wasn’t good enough, as he wanted to be in the same row with the rest of his family. To some degree, I can relate. We have younger kids and they like being close to mom and dad. However, the entire upstairs cabin is only 8 rows. And, it’s really not that hard to lean forward and press the touchscreen.
His solution at this point was to stand up and start screaming and cursing at the purser. Her solution? She offered to operate the touchscreen for him whenever he needed to change to a new movie or pause the movie. She suggested all he would need to do was wave at her or another member of the crew and they would operate the touchscreen so he didn’t have to lean forward. His reply? “Who’s going to adjust the volume for me?”
I sincerely hope there’s a special place in hell for folks like this. I felt so bad for the purser having to deal with that the entire flight. To think that after that, she wanted to come find me and apologize? Customer service may be a lost art, but it wasn’t lost on our purser.
Wrapping Up A Great Day At The First Class Terminal
I wasn’t 100% sure we’d have access to the unbelievable First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. Yes, there’s a completely separate terminal for First Class passengers. As the saying goes, it’s all that and a bag of Fritos. My daughter was stunned at how awesome it was. We put together a funny Instagram story about it if you want to see some more pictures.
I have the utmost respect for people who can provide unbelievable customer service in the face of adversity. Even though it’s become the norm, I still don’t understand why customers can’t treat employees with a bit more respect (and vice versa).
Did you enjoy this post? Please share it! There’s plenty of ways to do that below.
And, I hope you’ll check out my podcast, Miles To Go. We cover the latest travel news, tips and tricks every week so you can save money while you travel better. From Disney to Dubai, San Francisco to Sydney, American Airlines to WestJet, we’ve got you covered!