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Is it any wonder??

January 10th, 2005 · No Comments

All-in-all, a smooth day today. One little thing threw me into a bit of a tizzy, though.

As a pilot for SkyWest, I fly passengers under the United banner as a service to United Airlines. They pay us to haul people that they ticket so that we can bring those people from their small cities to the hubs where they get onto United mainline flights to fly intercontinentally or even internationally. As we aren’t really United Airlines, but are simply flying under their banner and in their livery for a fee, we often get treated like red-headed stepchildren by actual United employees.

Flying to Burbank from Denver, my flight attendants served 70 people sodas and other beverages on ice during the two hour flight. Being that we can’t make ice on our airplane, we rely upon commissary at the stations we visit to replenish our supply. As we got to the point where we were about 20 minutes away from landing in Burbank, we tried to radio the United Airlines ground operations there to let them know we were nearing the field. No answer, as the few people that were there were outside working another flight to San Francisco.

When we finally opened the door to allow our passengers to deplane, one of my flight attendants asked the ground agent for two bags of ice for our trip home. “Sorry. We’re out.” was the response. We were informed that the woman who was in charge of aircraft provisioning was off on Sundays and that they hadn’t had any ice all day. Remarkable.

So what were we to do on our two-plus hour return flight to Denver? Serve warm drinks? Way to win over a customer’s loyalty.

Well, I asked if there had been any thought put into finding another possible source for ice on the field. “Why?” was the response I got from the United ramp agent.

“Why? Because just about every plane that leaves from here has at least a 1 hour flight ahead of it, and that means a passenger service that the flight attendants have to give. Why would we want to serve warm soda to passengers that paid good money for their seats and our service? You guys have down-time during the day where all you do is sit on your union-job-asses watching Jerry Springer. Couldn’t ONE of you take some initiative to go out and find a dozen bags of ice so that we might keep some of the passengers that fly with us today?”

So up the stairs into my jet I went. I grabbed a microphone and asked Burbank ground-control whether or not they had the frequency for Southwest Airlines’ operations office. After getting that, I called up and politely requested some assistance. I simply asked if they could spare two bags of ice for our trip back to Denver. They were MORE than happy to oblige, and within MINUTES we had a Southwest ramper driving up to a United Express airplane to drop off the two bags of ice we’d requested.

United: the overgrown goliath of an airline where every employee seems to have a false sense of entitlement and a genuine attitude of apathy.

Southwest: the helpful, courteous airline who goes out of their way to help a competitor keep their passengers happy.

Is it any wonder why United is teetering on the verge of Chapter 7 and Southwest is doing so well?

I don’t think there’s much more to say than: I WANT TO WORK FOR SOUTHWEST SO BADLY I CAN TASTE IT!!!

To Shelly, the Southwest Airlines BUR ops-supervisor: Thanks for your help today! I still find it remarkable, no matter how well I understand Southwest’s corporate culture, that you were so willing to go out of your way to help us out after receiving our request (which might be called inappropriate by some).

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