Bimbo Banter

The Power of the Personal Anecdote

  • Crisis
  • September 20, 2016
  • by Sally Ann Rivera

New 787 aircraft masterimage

Two things in life are certain:  death and taxes. And in the realm of business travel, I’d like to add “flight delays” to the aforementioned list. I generally feel overdue for a delay about every third flight. Like clockwork, I faced another late Monday night that turned into a Tuesday morning trip. And in case you think this is a piece rooted in frustration, it is, but I have to congratulate American Airlines for turning a customer experience issue into a win.

As soon as we were about to board, the gate agent made the sad announcement that we would not be boarding for another two hours. The issue? Typical, unpredictable weather at DFW. The enlightened experience? Full transparency on how the flight crew was on its way in from Mexico City, got diverted to Houston and was waiting to take off again for Dallas. Assurance that our plane was there and a promise to keep us posted and a reminder to stay close to the gate.

Dutifully, I planted myself ready to board with the hope that the crew would get in earlier than expected. The gate agent returned with updates at the promised time. The crew had landed, the pilots were still on their way, but we would be boarding soon. Another update, to get us off the ground faster we’ll board while the pilots make their way to us and we’ll be ready to take off as soon as possible.

Eagerly, we lined up and boarded the plane. Immediately, passengers began commenting on how the plane did not have the typical and expected airplane overdose of air conditioning. The crew noticed. They came on the intercom, expressed their apologies and gave us an aspirational timeline for getting the AC turned on, also offering to let us deplane if necessary for our comfort while we waited.

A promised update in 10 minutes and follow through on that promise as well. The crew was on their way but might time out soon, so they would let us know their decision as soon as possible. Our gate agent gave us the background that, if the crew refused the flight, they would provide us with hotel accommodations and meal vouchers. Then the unfortunate news the crew had chosen not to accept this flight.

Before the groans could even begin, the same gate agent (our loyal spokesperson) once again followed through on his promise. He directed us to deplane, wait in the lounge and they would issue us vouchers for hotels (coupled in all honesty that they might not have enough for everyone), shuttle/taxi if necessary, dinner and breakfast and to hold onto our boarding passes as we would use the same ones in the morning.

Dutifully, we deplaned and immediately lined up. American Airlines made an announcement that they would open up the adjacent gate to have more staff on hand to assist each of us faster. As we were waiting, our faithful spokesperson gave updates for those of us queued up to keep us from feeling left in the dark:  the meal vouchers would work today and tomorrow, the location and name of the 24hr restaurant still open, information about how the hotel vouchers would work—anticipating and answering all of the questions that might possibly arise.

When it was my turn, I received a printed voucher guaranteed to get me from any cab to the specific hotel, a voucher for the hotel, a voucher to get me from the hotel by any cab back to the airport in the morning, breakfast and dinner vouchers and a reminder to hold onto my boarding pass. They also made broad announcements about what time we should be back at the airport in the morning for the flight.

After a taxi ride to the hotel, a few hours of sleep and a taxi ride back, I grabbed my breakfast at the airport with my voucher and boarded the delayed flight. Our friendly and faithful spokesperson had returned to see out the process to its completion. I was impressed to have him alongside us for the whole adventure.

I finally made it safely to my destination (12 hours later than expected), but the customer service journey does not end there. I received a pleasant email from American Airlines that automatically granted me a generous allotment of bonus miles as an apology. An important thing to note is that I had yet to make any complaint throughout this entire process but AA anticipated the inconvenience and proactively made amends. Instead of leaving me ready to complain, they’ve now enlisted an ambassador who is ready and willing to champion their caring customer service.


  • Have a crisis plan
  • Choose a spokesperson
  • Transparency with compassion
  • Go above and beyond
  • Keep your promises

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