These 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