Yesterday, I was at the Ithaca airport on my way back from a day trip working with the executive MBA students at Cornell. As soon as I got to the airport, I tried to check myself in at the Kiosk. For some odd reason, the kiosk wasn’t able to find my reservation. So this lady (pictured) at US Airways helped look my reservation up manually.
And now get this.
After looking up my reservation, she said:
“Ha… I see that you’re taking a stop at Philly, then another one at Charlotte before getting into Providence. Would you like to take a direct flight to Providence from Philly instead? That’ll shave you a few hours.”
And I was like. “Uh… Sure?”
At first, I couldn’t believe my ears. In my head, I’m thinking “Am I getting charged extra for this or what?” But, no. Through the magic of her typing she just made it happen.
After receiving the new flight assignment, I felt that something was off, but I wasn’t sure what. I walked through security, and sat down to process my emotion. After several minutes, I slowly came to the realization that what I was experiencing was an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Several minutes had already passed since I had uttered two reactionary words, “thank you,” to this lady. It felt awkward to go back and bring it up again. I tried to distract myself for a few minutes, but the feeling wouldn’t subside. So I finally decided I had to do something. I stood up, walked up to her, and told her that I would really like to mark this event as a special moment. I asked if we could take a picture together. She seemed surprised, and probably thought that I was an odd ball, which I can totally understand. Thankfully she agreed, and we smiled together at the camera before snapping a picture. I thanked her once again.
I don’t know of a time in my recent flight history, where I felt such sense of gratitude in relation to someone behind the ticket counter. Flying back and forth over the course of an overnight trip can be tiring. The last thing you want to do is spend more time in the plane or waiting in the airport. (Especially after experiencing several hours of delay the day before) What she did was not only surprising, but also meaningful and valuable to me. It was a great example of something I would consider a micro innovation. The kind that can only arise from realizing empathy. Thank you once again, dear lady whose name I failed to get. I will not forget the experience you made possible today.
May you stay beautiful,
Seung Chan Lim
UPDATE: I tweeted this story to US Airways, and they promised to let her manager know. They just made my day!
MORE UPDATE: Corporate communications at Piedmont Airlines (operating for US Airways) has contacted me to let me know that Melissa (I now know her name!) and her boss has seen it. Love the internet. Love it.