Thanks to the impressive performance of US Air ticket agent Lorraine Melvin, I'm sitting at my dining room table writing to you instead of on a bus wending its slow way to New York. Let me explain. My earlier post proved, alas, prescient. (If only I'd listened to Tangerine Toad.) All began well at the airport this morning--not one of our party of four were marked for "special" security screening, our boarding passes were Zone 1 which meant first choice of luggage compartments, the plane even took off on time. But two hours later, as we descended through cloud banks, approaching La Guardia, turbulence hit, sending us back into clouds. The bad news was: we couldn't land, due to weather. (Really? It was raining, not snowing, and lightly at that.) As the plane arced defiantly away from the runway, the pilot announced we were heading to Philadelphia. To refuel, he said. And here's what surprised me: there was no reaction. No collective groaning, no outraged passengers making their way up the aisle, not a single outcry, in fact. All of us rerouted against our will sat quiet and upright with our seatbelts fastened, our only protest a silent rolling of eyes. I guess Toad is right: "People have just gotten to the point where they expect air travel to be a completely horrible experience, filled with long delays, lost luggage, interminable lines and surly staffers."
When we got to Philadelphia (hello Liberty Bell) instead of gassing us up and getting us off the ground, as we'd been led to believe they would do, US Air deplaned us and sent us to baggage claim to retrieve what we'd checked. They'd be taking us up to New York... via bus. That's when we broke finally and during the bedlam created by a US Air spokeswoman being rushed, I edged over to a ticket counter to see if there were any LGA flights available. "Nope," snapped Window #1. "All flights today are already booked." Undaunted (our business instills a few useful life skills), I slid down to Window #6 and posed the question again. "Our flights are all overbooked," said a young woman, having the kindness to look disappointed on my behalf. "But let me try something..." After a half hour of key-pecking and placing phone calls, Lorraine Melvin (said her nametag) presented us triumphantly with not one free ticket but four on the next flight to LGA despite the fact that it had been oversold. If CEO W. Douglas Parker could figure that what made her care enough to want to satisfy a disgruntled customer, what made her act differently than her colleague, what infused her with more energy and initiative than any US Air employee I'd encountered that day, well, he might rescue his company from desperate straits. Lorraine Melvin! Lorraine Melvin! I'll write a snail mail letter on her behalf, but first I mean to give her name google juice. Lorraine Melvin!