Dear US Airways:
I’m writing to tell you about my friend Joanie. She’s a flight attendant for your airline. Joanie and I haven’t been friends for a long time. Actually I just met her yesterday. But you know what? It feels like we’ve been friends forever.
I met her in Charlotte, NC. I was on my way back home to Lexington KY after several days in Dallas on business. Flight #3832 was scheduled to depart at 2:25pm from Charlotte and we ended up boarding closer to 3:00pm which didn’t seem unusual.
For some reason I don’t like to get on airplanes before it’s absolutely necessary. I was one of the last to board. When I finally walked through the door of the plane and was greeted by Joanie, I had no idea that I was about to have my molecules rearranged. After all I have been a frequent passenger in the “not so friendly skies” for most of my 30 year career. I am used to the half hearted effort by airline personnel and I think I have become immune to it. For me it’s a foregone conclusion that on a good day the service will be average and on a bad day – fahgettaboutit!
After stowing my stuff in the overhead compartment, I settled into my 3rd row seat and in accordance with FAA regulations I buckled in and shut off my electronic device. After I clicked the seat belt buckle I realized my book had been stowed away, forcing me to my last resort – the magazine located in the seat pocket in front of me. As I paged through this less than stimulating piece of literature, Joanie began to recite the safety instructions that all of us know practically by heart.
It didn’t take long after she uttered the words, “Welcome aboard US Airways flight #3832” to know that Joanie wasn’t just another flight attendant. My first clue came when she warned us if we didn’t pay attention to the safety instructions she just shared, she would ignore us if we had any questions later. The rest of her announcements were peppered with one-liners and sarcastic quips which were funny but never inappropriate. Her comedic delivery was like that of a professional and if you closed your eyes you could swear it was Joan Rivers in her prime. Lucky for Joanie with your eyes open there was no resemblance.
I’ve always had a fondness for Southwest Airlines because they set the standard for “making flying fun”. While Joanie was funny what impressed me most was her authenticity and genuine concern for her passengers. This wasn’t just a comedy routine. There was so much more to it than that. This was a service person with a higher purpose. She was there not only to serve us and share “the safety features of the aircraft”; she was there to MAKE OUR DAY! Her omnipresent smile, quick wit and wonderful sense of humor delighted everyone who was willing to be delighted. She did it all with an air of sincerity which in this reporter’s opinion really made the difference.
As we pulled up to the gate in Lexington, her welcome announcement was fun and upbeat. I noticed something she said that really resonated with me. It went something like this, “Make everyday a special day!” I thought to myself, that’s Joanie for ya.
When the seat belt sign was no longer illuminated, I decided to wait to be the last one off the plane so I could spend some time talking to Joanie. As the passengers shuffled by I was trying to figure out how to approach her so she wouldn’t think I had an ulterior motive. My contemplation was disrupted by something highly unusual. This is no exaggeration. Many of the deplaning passengers addressed Joanie by name as they bid her farewell. Not sure I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it!
When it was my turn to exit, I asked her if she’d mind if I walked with her to the baggage claim area. I wanted her to know she had just become one of my SERVICE HEROS. The pilots assured her they would serve as bodyguards just in case I tried to pull a fast one. I think, I hope, I’m almost positive they were saying that in jest. Of course Joanie graciously accepted. During the 15 minute walk I was able to express my appreciation and validate my assumption.
The bottom line – Joanie is the real deal. She’s a Mom to 1 girl and 5 boys and they reside on Long Island. We had an enjoyable conversation about life, customer service and making the most of every day. It was so refreshing for me to meet someone who understands what it takes to provide extraordinary customer service.
In closing I’d like to share my three hopes…
First, I hope Joanie reads this letter. We parted company so quickly, I’m not sure she knows how to get to this blog post.
My second hope is that someone at US Airways will provide Joanie with some sort of special honor. And I’m not talking about an “atta girl” letter. Someone in your organization needs to make her day! I’m talking full Spa treatment (massage, pedi, mani, etc.) in the morning, a shopping spree in the early afternoon, followed by dinner and a Broadway show for Joanie and her husband that evening. Seems like a small price to pay for someone who has spent her career making a difference with literally thousands of passengers.
My final hope is that at least one person in the customer service business reads this and begins to develop a different perspective. I’m not asking everyone who serves customers to think like Joanie or be like Joanie. Trust me she’s one of a kind. What I am asking, is for service people to realize they can make a difference. That they can help make this crazy world we live in a kinder, gentler, more joyful place. To be authentic and approach each day with a sense of purpose!
Please send along my special thanks to Joanie. Even though our friendship lasted just over an hour she made a lasting impression on me. I hope I’m lucky enough to be on one of her flights in the future.