Welcome to Terminal Tales, the weekly blog series where I highlight my favorite personal encounters with passengers while fulfilling my job duties as a Ticketing & Gate Agent. I was returning from a road trip through Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho on Thursday, April 20, so this week will only have stories from Friday. In this week's short edition: the magic of "Grandma" & grilled cheese.
I was at the gates this morning, assigned to Gate 5. If you're just now joining the Terminal Tales community, you probably don't know that Gate 5 is cursed... something always goes wrong. Gate 5 is a swinging gate, which means that two aircrafts can be parked at the gate at one time without interfering with operations. My first outbound was a flight to Houston, with a one hour break between my next outbound flight to Denver. Plenty of time, right? Plenty of time, except that my Houston plane was late coming in from the hangar, so I actually had less than 30 minutes to board two aircrafts. Thankfully, the call came in from Ops to do a gate change so that the Houston flight would depart from 7, which Gary was working. Gary was still finishing his first outbound flight when he was given the control of my Houston flight, so I (literally) ran my paperwork over to him, gave him the quick down-low of specials on the flight & what I had worked on the flight so far, & then I started working the Denver departure.
The economy cabin was oversold by two passengers, but I had two seats available in First Class after clearing my Upgrade list -- I struck gold! In this type of oversold situation, we upgrade economy passengers into First Class for free, as it eliminates the oversold flight & we don't have to solicit for volunteers & issue travel vouchers. When I am able to upgrade economy passengers for free, I always scan the boarding area for military members, senior citizens, or someone who just looks like they could use a break. I tend to be chatty with my passengers, so I learn pretty quickly who is traveling for less-than-pleasant circumstances. I'll tuck their name away in a mental note, saving it just in case I am able to upgrade passengers. Complete strangers can be really vulnerable when they're traveling, so they tend to open up quickly. On this particular Friday morning, there was an absolutely adorable elderly woman who approached the podium for her seat assignment. I wish I had her picture, she was just the epitome of "Grandma", you know? Sweetest old woman everrrrr. I told her it was her lucky day & that she was going to be upgraded to First Class. I explained the situation, gave her the upgraded boarding pass, & told her she was welcome to board with Group 1. She was thrilled, which made me think she had possibly never experienced a First Class cabin before. Mind you, the flight to Denver is barely 20 minutes... but First Class is still First Class. And only First Class passengers get a beverage service on the Denver flight because of its short duration, so it's a fun (and comfortable, my word the seats are incredible) experience.
Once the flight was all boarded & I was confirming my passenger numbers with the Flight Attendants's counts & handing them the final flight report, I took a peek in the First Class cabin & there was "Grandma", sitting in 2C & beaming. She was actually glowing, guys, with the biggest grin on her face, looking around & completely absorbing the experience. We made eye contact & exchanged big smiles at each other. My day was made from that moment on.
Until... Chicago was delayed four hours. Yup. The delay notification was sent to passengers' emails & txt messages before I ever got word of it. I happened to look up at my monitor to notice the delay, just as passengers started to appear disgruntled. I made my delay announcement & the line for rebooking began to form. The original aircraft was not fit to fly on Friday, so we had a crew bringing us a brand new plane altogether from Chicago. Who wants to ride in a broken plane? Anyone? Anyone at all? Didn't think so... so let's be patient & I'll take good care of you, I promise.
When passengers complain, they are certain to complain loudly enough so I can hear every. Single. Word. Yes, I hear you. And no, you don't get special treatment for being a jerk. I refuse to reward bad behavior. If you are polite, patient, smile, & say "Thank you" after I've helped you, that may actually get you something. To those three passengers who were talking "amongst themselves", who had their own ideas about how I should be rebooking passengers, & who seemed to think they could perform the job better, I was certain to excuse myself from the passenger I was assisting, make eye contact with all three of them, & tell them precisely why I was rebooking in the order that I was, & told them they were welcome to call the Reservations number if they preferred to not wait in my line. Regardless, every single one of us will be here to wait for four hours, so I don't know what the rush to be rebooked is all about. But, for every unruly passenger, there will always be at least one overly-friendly passenger to make up for it. Hallelujah.
To prevent a 50-passenger-line of frustration & chaos, I try to call passengers up by last name, starting with those who have the earliest connection time in the connection city & working my way down the list of passengers who have the longest layover. Sometimes that helps me rebook two or three passengers at a time who may not even know each other, but who are trying to make the same final destination. Anyway, the flight did eventually depart, & the sound of angels singing was heard throughout the terminal.
I did get to end my morning with a grilled cheese sandwich, which was pretty stellar if I'm being honest. For kicks & giggles, the supervisors like to provide us with a meal in the mornings to reward our work. Sometimes it's bacon & eggs, & sometimes it's grilled cheese -- & in case you don't know me that well yet, cheese, bread, & I are practically married. So, despite the delayed flight to Chicago, having "Grandma" & grilled cheeses were well worth the hectic morning.
Megan Elizabeth is a storyteller based in Kalispell, Montana. Take a peek at her blog & portfolio, drop her a line, & follow her story on Facebook & Instagram.