Olympia – Jan/Feb 2018
Seaside – Jan/Feb/March 2018

Extraordinary Customer Service

Leeann ketterer Alaska AirlinesThese days, travelers complain mightly about airlines. Planes are crowded and airlines charge for everything from bags to meals to ticket changes. Overworked airline staff who deal with unhappy, stressed out fliers, often become surly themselves. It makes travel unpleasant to say the least. As a friend of mine who travels nearly every month for his employer recently said, “The places I get to visit are great, but getting there is awful.”

It’s almost enough to make one give up travel (almost, I say).

Then along comes an airline staffer who proves that great companies, including great airlines, are made up of extraordinary people.

Recently, I was in the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Alaska airport waiting for a flight. Final announcements had been made for the plane to Portland. They were waiting to close the door, but were still missing one passenger. Alaska Airlines gate agent, Leann Ketterer, repeatedly called the passenger’s name over the p.a. system. Then she called the passenger on the phone. I overheard her patiently explain to the passenger that the flight was leaving and they needed to close the door and push back within the next five minutes.

The passenger was still going through security. “Really?” Ketterer said incredulously. “I don’t know if you’ll make it. And I’m afraid I don’t have anything else to book you on. Please try and hurry.”

The minutes ticked by and no passenger.

That’s when Ketterer swung into action. She ran down the concourse, on the way telling the porter staff to get a wheelchair. (They didn’t and Ketterer had to secure a wheelchair herself.)

The agent located the wayward passenger, an older woman who seemed clueless about how very late she was and how close she was to missing her flight.

Ketterer ran pushing the woman in the wheelchair from security all the way down concourse C. She pushed the chair right onto the gateway and deposited the passenger into her First Class seat with seconds to spare. The agent wasn’t even back up the gateway when the big plane pushed back.

The agent arrived back at her gate computer sweaty, breathless, and smiling.

While Ketterer ran through the airport to rescue the errant customer, the rest of the gate crew had completed the flight’s paperwork to close the flight and send it on its way. She thanked them for the help.

One of the staff laughed and said, “That’s the Alaska spirit.”

It’s also the way all airlines should be treating passengers. Good for you, Leann Ketterer. And good for Alaska Airlines for employing such extraordinary staff. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor


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Bobbie Hasselbring

RFT founder and the website's former editor-in-chief, Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. She's been an award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook.

28 thoughts on “Extraordinary Customer Service

  1. JoAnna Woode

    LeAnn is also my sister, and I am so very proud of her! Thank you for sharing with the world the amazing woman that she is!

  2. RoseAnn

    That’s my sister too! Way to go LeAnn!!! I never had that experience, but I do know the fines that an airline can get for being late 🙁 And I know the trouble for trying to get another flight. AND – if it were my mom, I would really appreciate the extra help and understanding.

  3. Diane Leyba

    My sister too! Could not be prouder of her. There are 9 of us siblings. This story inspires all of us to give a little more of ourselves. What a wonder place this world would be if we all treated people like she treated this lady.

  4. Wendy Lyon

    This is why I like the smaller airlines. The big ones don’t care about just one passenger when they have thousands.

    1. Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT EditorBobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor Post author

      Me too, Wendy. I’d rather fly Alaska or Southwest any day rather than the big, mega-airlines. Alas, my travel schedule doesn’t often allow that. However, I wish they’d take a lesson from the smaller guys and realize that every customer is important and worthy of excellent customer service. — Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

  5. Jenna Sabin

    LOL… What you don’t know if that LeAnn also has at least 50 or so first cousins on one side, not to mention the secon cousins. 🙂

  6. Nancy Ulz

    Leann is a terrefic co-worker. Im very happy that someone witnessed her kindness and her great customer service skills. It’s a pleasure working with people like her who CARES about others. WAY TO GO LEANN!!

  7. Roberta Rees

    As LeAnn’s Mom, of course, I am very proud of her…but not surprised. I am pleased that others have seen what a big heart she has and how she puts her whole self into heverything she does. That’s my LeAnn!

  8. Coousin Judie

    I have always enjoyed using Alaska Airlines. Always friendly and reliable. Us and flights to Mexico, for MANY years.

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