Sunday, April 17, 2005 6:39:05 AM
Carol flew to Illinois today to visit folks there. It is the first time she's travelled by herself in maybe twenty years or more, so she was feeling both excitement and apprehension. Like so many of life's adventures, this trip had its bright spots and its dark moments. We really must say thank you to some of the people involved.
With deep and sincere gratitude we say "thanks a lot" to the Northwest Airlines pilot who gave service well beyond what would be normally expected. With a big dose of sarcasm we might say "well, thanks a lot" to some unthinking or uncaring passenger who caused the problem.
I suppose now I should tell the whole story.
When she landed in Minneapolis she was scheduled for about a two-hour stopover before her next flight, plenty of time to get some lunch and find her way to the departure gate for her connecting flight. Apparently, as people were leaving the plane one of the other passengers picked up Carol's carry-on bag and took it off the plane with them. It is a black canvas bag with wheels on one end and a telescoping handle at the other, like hundreds or thousands of similar ones you see in any busy airport. It is entirely conceivable that someone made an honest mistake in thinking it was one of their bags.
Unfortunately, whoever it was discovered that it wasn't their bag (or, if I wanted to be cynical: discovered there was nothing in it worth stealing) and simply abandoned it inside the terminal building. Were they too embarrassed to take the bag back to the gate agent and admit their mistake? Were they afraid they'd be accused of thievery or some terrorist plot? Were they too rushed to make their connecting flight to take the time?
Carol searched the plane from top to bottom and fore to aft looking for her bag. Finally the staff said that she'd have to leave the aircraft and work with the gate agent to try to locate the bag. Of course this person was efficient and explained that security precautions now require abandoned bags to be removed and there was no procedure by which a passenger might reclaim them.
Carol is an experienced traveller, and among those experiences were instances when checked baggage didn't arrive at the same time as the passengers it was supposed to be accompanying. We've even had checked baggage disappear completely and permanently, never to be seen again. She's learned to keep her medications and other essential items in her carry-on bag. And now it was gone.
She was feeling frantic before, but now it was sheer panic. About this time, the pilot was leaving the plane and overheard Carol's distress. He asked the gate agent to call the lost-and-found and enquire about the bag. Whoever answered the phone in that department was reluctant to give out any information but, since the pilot was insistent, finally admitted that there had been two unattended bags removed from the terminal during the day.
The pilot offered to help Carol get to lost-and-found. When she got there she was told that unattended bags were not opened or inspected, no effort was made to identify who they belonged to, and there was no way to release those bags -- they must be destroyed. The pilot intervened again and proved to be very persuasive; they eventually returned her bag.
Of course, the two hour stopover for lunch has been consumed by the search and the negotiations with the bureaucratic system. The pilot called the gate agent for her connecting flight and advised them that she had been delayed but would be boarding the flight. She rushed off to the gate -- without lunch.
I'd guess that the gate agent and the security people were doing their jobs and following all the rules. The pilot was caring about individual passengers and going beyond the requirements of the job. They all work together to provide us a safe, efficient transportation system and we're thankful for each of their contributions, but we really appreciate the extra care we received from that pilot.
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tags: #family #travel #customerservice