By JULIA BUCKLEY – In the wake of a terrible month for airlines and their reputations, we’re remember brighter moments of great customer service in the air. Want your next flight to go as smoothly as possible? You may want to be flying one of these.
In 2015, Peggy Uhle was onboard a Southwest Airlines plane leaving Chicago to Ohio when her plane aborted take-off and taxied back to the gate. Not that there was any technical fault – the pilot had been informed that Uhle’s 24-year-old son had had an accident and was in a Denver hospital in a coma.
Uhle was escorted off the plane (she thought she was on the wrong one), where she was told to call her husband. Unbeknown to her, the airline had already booked her on the next flight to Denver.
“They offered a private waiting area, rerouted my luggage, allowed me to board first, and packed a lunch for when I got off the plane in Denver,” Uhle said at the time. Her luggage was taken to a hotel, so she could go straight to hospital – and she was never charged a penny.
Last year Etihad hit the headlines for aborting take-off on a flight from Manchester to Abu Dhabi to allow a couple to disembark in order to see their dying grandson.
As the plane was taxiing to the runway, the couple received a text saying that their grandson was in intensive care. They alerted cabin crew, who told the pilot – who turned the plane back to the gate. The Manchester Evening News reported that Etihad staff had already found the couple’s car and had it waiting for them by the time they got off the plane. The child died the following day – after they had spent time with him.
When a member of The Independent’s travel desk booked a flight to visit a dying family member two years ago, they bought a non-refundable, non-changeable ticket. But when it became clear that the family member was going to die sooner than expected, they immediately booked a new emergency flight and called to see if it was possible to refund the original ticket. No, said the call centre staff – but we’ll allow you to change it for a small fee, when you’re ready to make another journey. They didn’t ask for any proof, they said, because they could tell it was a genuine emergency. The writer has been a staunch Flybe supporter ever since.
Last month, Turkish Airlines hit the headlines when its cabin crew helped deliver a premature baby midair shortly after the plane took off from Guinea. The child was born at 42,000 feet and both mother and baby were pronounced healthy on arrival in Burkina Faso. The airline later tweeted congrats to its new “Princess”.
Last December, three women flying back to London from Gibraltar on BA found they were the only passengers on their delayed flight – as everyone else had opted to transfer to an earlier return home. The women – who’d paid £80 a head for their economy tickets – turned up to catch their original flight, which had been delayed by three hours, only to find themselves flying alone. Crew upgraded them to business class and celebrated with champagne, a three-course dinner and selfies in the cockpit on landing. They were, they said at the time, “treated like rockstars”.
When a passenger last year tweeted at Jetblue that he was running late for his flight at Boston airport and wouldn’t be able to get his customary Starbucks cup of coffee, the budget US airline secretly got a message to ground staff, who then presented the passenger with a steaming cup of Starbucks once he’d boarded the plane.
That’s not the only time Jetblue’s social media team has shown great customer service – last year when a member of The Independent’s travel desk flew its Mint (business class) cabin and got the same Birchbox amenities kit as a previous flight (they’re advertised as changing every month) they sent a mock-angry tweet, clearly marked as a joke. Jetblue responded by giving them a $100 travel credit for the (non-existent) annoyance.
Qatar has never gone viral for one particular customer service incident but they’re obviously doing well – since they’ve been voted the world’s best airline for customer service numerous times, most recently last November. They’ve also shown themselves to have a good sense of humour, coming out fighting against the laptop ban and dragging United on Twitter over the David Dao incident. More importantly, last month it quietly launched a bag-tracking service – in a world first, it’ll track your bag from the moment you check it in to the minute you get it back.