Yesterday, the CEO of my company traveled from Detroit to Orange County, with a layover in Chicago. United’s airplane was delayed departing Detroit, and then delayed again. The plane finally took off, and when it landed in Chicago, they taxied around the terminal two times while they waited for a gate to open up. Texts coming in from the CEO were a play by play of his tour around the tarmac of ORD, “I’m seeing the American terminal again.” “I’m now seeing my plane to Orange County again…”
On the phone with the airline, the rep called the gate agent, standing by for him to arrive. They finally found a gate and our CEO deplaned and was escorted to his connecting plane. The representative reported that Mr. Boss Man was on his connecting flight. Meanwhile, texts coming in from Mr. Boss Man confirmed that he was, in fact, on the plane.
Shockingly, the gate agent held the flight for 10 minutes to allow our boss to make his connection. They closed the plane’s door behind him, and then opened it again to allow a couple more passengers to make their connection. Allowing the plane to finally depart 23 minutes late, arriving in Orange County a grand total of 7 minutes late. What could have been a fiasco of 3 or 4 people not making their flight turned into an amazing story of customer service success by letting people get to their final destination instead of stranding them at the airport.
I’m thinking Southwest Airlines could learn a thing or two from how United handled this situation.