Wednesday with Delta at BWI

Last Wednesday, I was booked to take Delta flight #5414 from BWI to Logan at 6:50 PM. I arrived at the airport, went through security, and went to the gate. Everything appeared OK, so I went to the bar for an amber bock and a caesar salad. Back to the gate. There’s a long line at the desk. There’s a Delta guy behind the desk that looks very stressed.

Event #1.) The Delta guy speaks into his microphone and out over the public address system. “To all passengers bound for Cincinnati, Boston, and JFK. Weather has arrived in Baltimore and no flights are going anywhere, anytime soon.” It’s impossible to write this with all the tonality and struggle that this guy had in his voice. I looked over and the expression on his face was the same expression that I’ve seen on funeral directors’ faces and doctors’ faces when they have very bad news. Anybody looking at him would have seen that he was feeling the pain.

Event #2.) He adds, “Those of you who were planning on making connections in Cincinnati should go back out to the ticket counters. They have more help out there and they’ll be able to re-book your flights much more efficiently than we’ll be able to here.

I went and ordered another Amber Bock thinking I don’t like being delayed, but at least I’m going home and I don’t have to worry about re-booking connections. One thing that might be pertinent is that the evening before, there were tornadoes in the Baltimore area and my flight in was delayed three hours. I figured that I was gonna be there for a while.

Event #3.) After my second beer, I went back to hang out at the gate. There was still a long line. About 15th in line, there was a guy that I had noticed in the bar. He was talking too loud on his cell phone about some kid who had had his brain fried by some medical person and it should be worth millions. Anyway, this pompous ass was about 15th in line and some lady on crutches was allowed to be second in line. He went up and told her that there was a line and everybody in front of him asked him if he could see the crutches, and then suggested that he get back in line. I love it when the multitudes rise up against self-important morons like him.

Event #4.) As I watch, the Delta guy looks out the window (High tech, huh?). Then he makes a call. Then he announces, “Those of you bound for Boston on flight #5414, please stand by. It appears that your plane is arriving. I’ll be checking with the flight crew as soon as they land to find out how long before they’re ready to go again”. He goes away, comes back few minutes later and announces, “Passengers on flight #5414, we’re getting you another pilot. Plan on boarding in about 10 minutes and leaving about 10 minutes after that”. And that is what happened.

Event #5.) The pilot announces that once we get airborne, flight time to Boston will be 1 hour and 3 minutes. That we are on one of the few flights leaving because we’re going North. Nothing is going West or South because of the weather. It might be a little bumpy while we get to altitude and until we get clear of the weather, but after that it would be a smooth flight into Boston. There were NO bumps. This was one of the smoothest flights that I’ve ever been on. The flight attendant was so personable that she made me feel like I was sitting in her living room.

Aren’t events 1, 2, 4 and 5 great examples of managing expectations? Mr. Delta guy could have told us that he hoped the delay would be short or that he’d let us know as soon as he could, instead he said, “anytime soon”. He under-promised so he could over-deliver. When he suggested that people go back to the ticket counter, half the people in line left. His tonality and body language throughout the “ordeal” made all of his “prospects” realize that he was feeling way more pressure than they were, but that he wasn’t giving up and he was gonna get us all through it. Shifting gears a little: How many times do you make your customers ask you for a progress report? He saw a plane coming. Verified what it was and gave us (and everybody else) hope that we were progressing. He gave us (all) info as soon as he got it. Never over-promising, but always keeping us up to the moment.

This series of events could have tested my patience, but Mr. Delta guy (I should have gotten his name.) made it seem as though he was more concerned about my well-being than any problems that might have been on his desk at the moment.

Finally, any experienced traveller would have expected a bumpy flight with thunderstorms in the area, especially on a 50 seat plane. The pilot stating the obvious, but informing us that it should be short lived was masterful. I’m sure that everybody was thinking, “Anybody can get through a few bumps”.

One more thing. You want to be arrogant, self-important, out-spoken, and strong? You want to appear to be in control, successful when everyone else is feeling oppressed? Re-read #3.

One thought on “Wednesday with Delta at BWI

  1. Rick, I loved this post. I used to be a road warrior early in my career (75% on the road), and it used to bother me that there were so many #3 people out there. It also bothered me that there were so few “mr Delta Guys”. I could have used some of that expectation management. xoxoxo JohnOnSales

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