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Recognition: The Friendly Skies

I am beginning a new series today entitled “Recognition.”  When bad things happen and I am wronged in some way, I am very quick to take to social media or an email to customer service to complain.  While there are legitimate times to voice a complaint, it is usually not in the heat of the moment.  To help combat my “quick to gripe” attitude, I am on the lookout for amazing service and plan to write about each occurrence here.  Not only will this help me focus on the positive, but maybe, some folks will get the recognition they so truly deserve.

We begin last Friday night.  After a week-long business trip to California, it was time to head home.  We had a later flight out of John Wayne Airport and so we didn’t land until after 10PM.  As is our custom, my wife and I remained in our seats while almost every passenger deplaned.  My wheelchair weighs 350 pounds and is very difficult to maneuver without me at the helm, and so we are used to the process taking extra time.  Once the plane had unloaded, though, we walked to the jet bridge and found…nothing.  My wheelchair wasn’t there.  No crew members were there.  No one from the airport was there.

Now, to their credit (and before you think this is a gripe), it was very late, and the one service person at our gate was helping an elderly woman who needed an aisle chair.  It felt good to stand up after a three hour flight, so we didn’t mind.  However, the minutes ticked by and still no wheelchair or personnel.  Finally, one of the flight attendants came out to see why we were still waiting.  She went to the top of the jet bridge to check and when she came back down, she told us that my wheelchair was waiting at the top of the jet bridge.

Great, except one problem.  I can’t walk that far and no one was there to push me in a manual wheelchair.  Joni was with me, but she was carrying three bags, and it was quite a steep hill.  So, the flight attendant called for another service helper to come to our gate.  She also notified the pilot.  After another five minutes, no one had showed up.  To our surprise, the captain of our flight (Capt. John) came out and told us that we had waited long enough and that he would push me up the jet bridge.  Not only is such a task not a part of Capt. John’s job description, but many people in positions of command would see the job of pushing someone in a wheelchair as beneath them.  Not Capt. John, though.  He pushed my wheelchair up, waited until I got in my powered wheelchair and then he went back down to finish his piloting duties.

After Joni and I got situated, we parted ways.  She headed to the baggage claim and I ventured off to the Sky Link to head to the terminal where we had parked before our departing flight that past Monday.  As I got on the Sky Link, Capt. John happened to board with me.  We made small talk and he asked where I was headed.  After I told him, he questioned as to whether my path would be impeded from the Sky Link to my van.  He was asking if he needed to come with me to my van.  Yet again, I was blown away.  He had been working all day and yet was willing to follow me to my van to make sure I could get there.

He didn’t have to…it wasn’t a part of his job…but he did it anyway…and for that,  I give Recognition to Capt. John of American Airlines flight 2389 (on Nov. 20).

Tweet to American Airlines about Capt. John