Sunday, November 16, 2008

For Them, for Us

This time every year (Veteran’s Day +/- a few days) I do something special, and I enjoy it immensely. After getting full agreement and promise of cooperation from the flight attendants I make an announcement on the PA system during our long climb to our cruising altitude.

I tell all veterans to reach up and push their overhead orange call button. This will make the button light up and a “ding” will sound. I tell them to do it so that their fellow passengers and the flight attendants can recognize and thank them for their service to our country. I don’t tell them yet that we will be treating them, lest liars will ring up.

After that I pause. If the recirculation fans are not too loud I’m usually able to hear a few dings from near the front of the plane. When all the vets have had a chance to chime-in I go back on the PA and tell them the flight attendants will now serve them any drink they wish from the ship’s bar, courtesy the captain and crew. It makes them feel special.

I like making people feel special. Sometimes, before the flight starts and when there are a few first class seats open, I invite military and retired military people to come forward and take them. This is tricky because it takes a few extra minutes to make the announcement and re-seat people. ID cards have to be checked to prevent scumbag imposters from coming up.

I always clear this with the chief flight attendant first. I’ve only had one refuse to cooperate. I could have ordered her to do it but I didn’t because I knew she would not have been pleasant to them. I also get the first class passengers’ approval, because they paid dearly for those seats. I have never heard a single one express disapproval.

The last time I did this, one of the flight attendants came to the cockpit with teary eyes. She said people were applauding as the soldiers and airmen moved to the front. Some even cried. She said it was the most awesome experience she has ever seen at the airline. Yeah, I like to make them feel special, because they are.

Another time I had only one first class seat open but several soldiers of different branches were seated in coach. The chief flight attendant said, “How are you going to handle this?” I got on the PA and asked who the ranking service member was. I saw fingers point to a Marine major. I said, “Major, you choose.” I expected him to get up and come forward, but I saw him look around. He picked a private and sent him forward. That, my friends, is called Leadership.

And one other anecdote needs to be told here. One day while greeting my first class passengers I discovered one elderly man, who was traveling with his wife, was a retired United captain. He had been retired about 10 years. I pulled the forward flight attendant aside and asked her to address him as “Captain” when she served him. She smiled. She knew it would mean something special to him.

It did to me too.


bradcockrell said...

I'm proud of you pop for being different, and showing honor where it is due. CAP you deserve to be honored as well!

Jay Hargrove said...

Jay Hargrove asked me to post this for him:

"In behalf of all the Privates and other enlisted men and women of all the services, I salute you. Not just for the special seats, but for caring." Jay