How many times have you traveled by air and heard the flight attendant say something like this…”We know you have a choice when you fly and we thank you for choosing our airline?” I’ve always thought…”no, I don’t really have a choice, unless it’s based on price, flight times or if you are part of a rewards program.” I’ve never chosen a particular airline because I like them over another. It’s not all that different when choosing where you want to live (which apartment community that is.) Most choose based on location and then price. Then there is a chance that the sales associate might tip the scales and be the reason someone chooses your property over another. I want to share a recent air travel experience that has completely changed my perception and going forward I will always try to find a flight with this airline when possible!
Picture this…I had to travel for work last month and when I arrived at the Delta gate I found it clean and fresh looking with newer carpet, new chairs and electrical & USB ports in between every few seats. “This is awesome”, I thought, “because I’m a little early to the gate and don’t want to drain my phone battery while I check my email and post to social media about my trip.” The plane was newer and the flight attendants seemed especially friendly and helpful! Offering to help passengers with their bags etc.. The flight was non eventful and I arrived at my destination on time.
My trip was only for one night, so the next afternoon, I made my way back to the airport, but this time with a oversize piece of luggage that I had to bring back with me for work. My extra luggage looked like a hard case of golf clubs, but was much, much heavier! I tried to check it at the curbside Delta counter because it was so heavy I didn’t want to have to handle any longer than necessary. For some reason their computer wouldn’t let them do it. The curbside agent could see me struggling when she informed me that I had to take the case inside to the main counter and she stopped everything and escorted me in to the exact location I needed to go. I was very impressed, she did not have to do that…did not have to leave her post and walk me all the way in there. Then, when I hoisted the case onto the scale, it was more overweight that what I had already paid for online and the agent asked me if I could take something out of it. I had no room in my carry on and there was no way I could remove enough weight from the case to make a difference. She was very openly concerned about the added expense of $100. I told her my company would pay the extra as long as I had a receipt and her reaction was of total relief! I thought, “how sweet that she was genuinely concerned that I would have to pay the extra.” I mean, it’s her job and there was no way she could discount it…but the fact that she showed such kindness and concern had a positive impact on me. I made my way through security to the assigned gate and found it to be just as nice at the gate I had departed from the prior day. “Huh, I thought it was just that airport, but it must be a Delta thing to update the gate this way with the new carpet, new chairs and the numerous electrical and USB outlets between every few seats. Nice!” We boarded the plane and just like the day before, the flight attendants were friendly and and noticeably helpful…offering assistance with bags, talking to passengers about their travel plans, making jokes etc..I noticed that everything on the plane looked new too, like it was either recently refurbished or was a brand new plane, new carpet, new seats, clean and fresh! Once everyone was seated, the pilot came on the intercom and informed us that there was a mechanical problem with the plane and that the maintenance crew as checking into it. After about 10 minutes, the Flight Attendants began walking down the aisle offering water to the passengers. Soon after, the Captain came back on with an update…the issue was still being investigated. Passengers began to get restless…the Flight Attendants continued offering water and answering questions. The Captain came on again with more updates and he continued to do so about every 10 minutes or so as the information became available to him. I was impressed with this because it put me at ease, not just sitting there with no idea what was going on. I thought to myself, “information is good,” “communication is so important.” After about 30 minutes, some of the passengers wanted to get off the plane. The crew explained that if they choose to get off the plane they should take their belongings with them because if for some reason we would have to change planes it would be impossible for them to re-board to retrieve their belongings. Many passengers still chose to deplane. The internet went out at the airport and many passengers began to complain to the Flight Attendants about it. The Captain came on the intercom and let us all know that the airline did not turn off the internet and that it was reported that there was an internet outage at the airport. Several passengers were using their mobile devices to try and find other flights and understandably became frustrated when the internet went down. I found it a nice gesture to at least let everyone know that it wasn’t something that could be helped. Again, communication is so incredibly important. Over the course of about an hour, the Captain continued to announce the progress of the repairs down to small details, like “the mechanics are removing the compartment door from the wing, they have to drill out the screws, they are inside the compartment now looking at the issue and so on…” Finally, it was decided that we would be able to use the same plane, but they wanted us to deplane while they finished the repairs. This time, we were able to leave all of our belonging on the plane but were reminded to bring our boarding passes with us. We deplaned and went back into the gate area where I was again happy to see the electrical and USB outlets! About 5 minutes after we deplaned, I saw a Delta employee bringing a cart full of soda’s and snacks and an announcement was made by the Delta Gate Agent that there were complimentary snacks for the passengers to enjoy! “WHAT?!?!?”…I thought, “are you kidding me???” “This is unbelievable!” The gate agents continued to field questions and comments from angry passengers and I took note of their calm demeanor…they remained professional and polite the entire time. The Gate Agents also initiated help to those passengers whose didn’t have paper boarding passes. Since the internet was out, those passengers with digital boarding passes were in a pickle. It finally time to re-board the plane and they did so very quickly. When I got settled back in my seat, I noticed a USB charger in between the seats right next to the tray table and information pouch, again…very impressed and pleased to have access to apps on my phone for the duration of the flight! Once everyone was seated, we took off and ultimately arrived at our destination only slightly later than anticipated.
I got off the plane and just kept thinking about the entire experience, from the time I began my journey until the moment I landed and replayed it over in my head several times. Delta took every opportunity available to impress me and every one of their passengers. From the initial check in to the cleanliness and extras at the gate(s) to the friendliness and professionalism of their associates to the constant communication by the Captain and more. It wasn’t a perfect flight, there were mechanical issues…things happen, but it’s how they reacted that made all the difference in the world. A few days after my flight, I received an email from Delta with with a survey request…it was already clear to me that Delta had made a huge effort to put their customers first and this was just the icing on the cake. I now realize that I do have a choice when I fly and Delta will be my first choice and I’ll hope that every time they have a flight that meets the criteria for my trip!
Our residents have a choice too and I hope that sharing my travel experience will be inspiration to think about what we can do better and how we can impress our prospects and residents with that little extra. And to remember…things go wrong, stuff happens, but if we effectively communicate with our residents in a timely manner, follow through and show we care, it can make all the difference in the world to them and their opinion of us as their housing provider!