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Stranded at the Airport

Stranded at the Airport

By Helena Nyman
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Have you ever been stranded at the Airport? How was the mood?
Coming back from a business trip in Florida last Sunday, I was getting caught in the turmoil of Atlanta's delays and canceled flights.
It began in Sarasota. I was waiting to board the plane, when they announced that the flight from Atlanta would be delayed for 30 minutes.
No problem, that would give me some time to keep working on my study about Jack Welch (former CEO of GE). Having my nose in my books, and my eyes on my laptop, I heard the announcement that the flight would be delayed another hour, which would make me miss my connecting flight in Atlanta.
Voices got loud, and everybody ran to the counter to express their frustration. Poor Customer Service Agent! I really didn't envy him.
To my astonishment, he kept his calm, and in a very kind, compassionate voice, he informed everybody about all the options. He artfully controlled the situation! Everybody came done, and the mood turned into a fun ambiance.
I joined two ladies (Judy and Carol) in their mid seventies that seemed to be quite adventurous. For the next hour, I was in for a treat. These two ladies knew exactly what life is about: Family, fun, passion, love for travel, friendships, etc., and they looked for opportunities in every situation.
These two amazing ladies reminded me more of teenagers than ladies in their mid seventies. I enjoyed every minute of my waiting time.

After a pleasant flight to Atlanta, we arrived in the middle of the storm. Flights to Europe were canceled again due to the Iceland Volcano - other flights were delayed.
Chaos and angry people!
By now, it was late, and we had to stand in line at the Customer Service counter to learn what hotel we would stay at, and what the next flight options would be.
The lines were long, and it would take quite some time until I would reach the counter.
I couldn't pass up this great opportunity to meet new people! Immediately, I involved people around me in some exciting conversations and learned a lot about them while moving forward in line.
After getting vouchers for the hotel and meals, I was on my way to the shuttle stop.
Angry and frustrated people pushing to get on shuttles. Three shuttles with my destination left already, and a few of us were still left standing in line. I needed to make use of this time - so I invloved the rest of the group in some amazing conversations. By talking to these people, I met some who were working for GE for a long time. They were a part of Jack Welch's team, and they didn't mind to give me an interview about the former and current culture of GE. I was in Heaven! Here I am, in the middle of studying Jack Welch, and I get the chance to talk to people who worked for him.
One of the shuttle drivers who drove passengers to other hotels picked up on our positive attitude and offered us to drive us to our hotel, even though it wasn't his destination. He just felt like being around positive people in the middle of this chaos. We graciously accepted his offer.
Arriving at the hotel, we learned that the Airport double-booked hotels, and that "our" hotel was already full. Instead of creating a hostile situation, we all were working with the receptionist, who, in return, set us up with a nearby hotel.
All was fine!
By now, it was almost midnight, everybody was hungry and thirsty.

Checking in at the hotel, we learned that the only options for food and drinks we had were the vending machines - and they were out of service.
The rest of the team was tired and decided to forget about food and beverages, and go to bed since we had to get up again at 4:30am to get back to the Airport.
People who know me are probably waiting already for my spin of the situation. Coming!
If somebody tells me it can't be done, I take the challenge to show them how it can be done.
The kitchen at the hotel was already closed, and the bar was just closing. Taking a chance, I spoke to the kitchen and bar team and explained them our situation. I convinced them that they would play an important role in going the extra mile in customer service by opening back up the kitchen and the bar for the late "stranded" ones. I must have made a good point. They all agreed to work WITH us, and we all ended up in a win-win situation. The hotel receptionist showed good collaboration by calling all the late "stranded" in their rooms to inform them that the kitchen and bar just opened again for them.
The night ended with a great gathering in the hotel bar. We may have been stranded and got the run-around, but we ended up meeting amazing people and experiencing outstanding customer service.
Next time, when you get stranded, think about this:
1. Be kind and respectful to your customer service agents, and they will work with you to find the best solutions for you.
2. Use the waiting time to make new contacts. You never know who you meet...
3. And finally: Be a part of the solution - not the problem!

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