It was incredible to experience such a kind gesture from a pair of terrific airline employees
By Tom Fjerstad/Editor
We often hear horror stories that plague airline travel, whether it be damaged wheelchairs, boarding and deplaning issues or any number of other problems that, unfortunately, go hand-in-hand with flying.
Modern air travel can indeed be fraught with problems, and I often prepare for the worst when flying. However, flying for a recent scuba diving trip to the Caribbean showed me how amazing people can be. The simplest act of kindness can make all the difference in the world.
Late last year, I made travel plans to the island of Bonaire, off the coast of Venezuela, for a week of scuba diving with my two sons. Our flight on Delta went from Phoenix to Atlanta for a plane change and then on to Bonaire. The flight from Phoenix was scheduled to arrive in Atlanta at 10:55 p.m., but the flight to Bonaire didn’t depart until 9:45 the next morning.
Rather than sit in the airport all night, I made a reservation at a nearby hotel with a plan to get a few hours of sleep and return in the morning. However, I was informed that I could not leave the airport during the layover unless my bags were only checked to Atlanta and not through to my final destination.
This was a deal-breaker, as lugging baggage to a hotel for a few hours of sleep and back to the airport seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I canceled the hotel reservation and found a place called Minute Suites located inside the airport security area.
Granted, it wasn’t really even a hotel, but it was a private 8-by-10 foot room with a daybed, blanket and pillow. It would allow me to get my feet up and enjoy a few hours in a horizontal position prior to the next leg of the journey.
However, when we arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, we were surprised to learn at check-in that our bags couldn’t be checked through to Bonaire. They could only be checked to Atlanta because of the length of the layover.
I became concerned about needing to exit security, pick up the bags, re-check them and re-enter the security area to get to our Minute Suites reservation for those anticipated six hours of edema reduction.
Once we arrived at the departure gate in Phoenix, I explained these concerns to the agent, who wasn’t completely certain what problems we might encounter when we landed in Atlanta. Our pilot happened to be standing nearby and overheard my concerns.
Once we landed in Atlanta, the pilot and lead flight attendant expressed their desire to help and escorted us to a Delta customer service agent, who confirmed my worst fears. After picking up and re-checking our baggage, we wouldn’t be able to re-enter the security area until four hours prior to our flight. This meant no Minute Suites and that we would be up all night.
The customer service representative said we could just leave our bags and get them in unclaimed baggage in the morning. I wasn’t comfortable with that, as the checked bags held our scuba gear. If anything happened to them, the trip would be over.
That’s when the pilot and lead flight attendant truly went above and beyond. They escorted us to the Minute Suites, then went to baggage claim, found our bags and re-checked them to Bonaire. They then came back through security, found us at Minute Suites and shared this with us, including pictures of the bags so we would know they were safe.
We were extremely appreciative, as this was something they were in no way required to do. For all the bad things you hear about air travel, it was incredible to experience such a kind gesture from a pair of terrific airline employees.
I can only wish the return trip home was as kind as that pilot and lead flight attendant. We started with a one-hour delay leaving Bonaire, then sat on the plane for 90 minutes in Atlanta to wait for a gate and had another one-hour delay taking off for Phoenix.
Once in Phoenix, the plane parked at a gate that doesn’t allow passengers to leave through the middle door. We sat there for 30 minutes until the crew figured out they just had to back the plane up 2 feet to allow everyone to exit through the front door.