I often watch in amazement as gate agents in airports can so blatantly blow off our passengers in the their time of need. I know there are plenty of times there is nothing they can do to rectify the situation but I’m sure a little compassion would make the hard news easier to swallow. And often its just information that a person needs to make them understand the situation.
I watched this Sunday as the computer meltdown of 2007 (so USA Today called it) took place at DCA. This was the day the Usairways/America West computer systems were to merge. We had been warned for weeks it could get ugly at the gates with agents checking people in. Most of the day Kiosks were wrong and passengers were left having to rely on the agents to offer them information on what gate they should be at. The same agents who were bogged down trying to print up our flight releases and check in passengers using a system they didn’t seem to understand. Things spiraled out of control pretty quick in a few situations and I tried to step in to mediate the peace.
In one case a lady panicked and ran up to the gate as the jetway was pulling from the plane. She had been at the wrong gate and needed to get on this plane. She pounded on the glass asking if anyone could help but the agent was out on the jetway driving back. I walked up to ask what I could do as the people in the gate area watched. I had been talking with most of these people about the situation with the computers and was doing my best to offer assistance. They saw me tell her I’d go find another agent to see if the flight was closed.
I walked around the corner to ask and the answer was simple, “The plane as left, she needs to go to special services.” The line there was longer than the girls line for the bathroom at Lilith Fair.
When I walked back in the gate area there was pandemonium! The gate was pulling back to the plane and the aircraft door was opening! The stranded passenger was jumping for joy and all the passengers were applauding me when I approached. “Oh – thank you – thank you – thank you!” She screamed and hugged me and when the door opened she pleaded to the gate agent if she could on.
And she let her! Hardly a question asked. Apparently there was a passenger on the plane who boarded the wrong flight and they had pulled back up to get her off. One passenger got on, one got off. It was a quick fix and the plane was on its way.
When I turned back to our gate full of people they all cheered for me and said how helpful I was! I had to tell them I did nothing to make that happen and it was pure luck. They thought I was being humble and modest and I let it go at that.