Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Right Thing

Picture this: A flight is delayed at the gate. A man sits in his seat and weeps. A flight attendant asks if she can do anything. He tells her his problem. She tells the captain. The captain gets the flight out as soon as he can and calls ahead to ask the connecting flight to hold for the man. The connecting captain holds. The man arrives in time to see his sick mother just before she dies.

Bigwigs at desks in company headquarters crack whips on underlings to get flights out on time because they think that's the most important measure of their competitiveness and their pressure is felt at the operational level every hour of every day. If I'm even one minute late getting off the gate I'll get a nasty gram from ACARS asking me why I delayed.

Nonetheless, the bigwigs undoubtedly jumped with joy and patted each other on the back when they read the news about what their crews had done. Who gets the credit? The bigwigs publicly say their happy crews get the credit, but  they know the drill. Crap always flows downhill, but sweet fragrance wafts upward. The bigs wink and sip. They created the caring culture that got this man to his dying mom in time and won them high accolades in the press.

And the crews? The flight attendant that cared enough to tell her captain about the man’s problem? The mainline captain who went above and beyond to arrange for the connecting flight to hold? The regional jet captain who refused to release his parking brake (and burned into his layover) until the man was safely aboard? If you asked them why they did it, they’ll shrug and say, “Credit had nothing to do with it. It was the right thing to do.”  

Did you notice I mentioned the connecting flight was a regional jet? That’s important, because it demonstrates that the regional crews are in tune with those whom they hope to someday join. They aspire to come up to the big leagues, and when I hear that they care about their passengers like that, I’m ready to see them across from me in a big cockpit.