If there is one thing that most frequent business travelers fear is that dreaded delay on the tarmac especially when the actual flight is a short commuter one. Well this evening it happened at Dulles Airport in DC, we boarded the CJR 700 commuter plane, seating for about 60 people, on time only to be informed that thunder storms in Charlotte had shut the airport there. And so we began that open-ended wait for us to get the go-ahead or head back to the gate. In the end we spent 2.5 hours sitting on the hot tarmac (it was still in the 80s outside) in the small confined space of the full CJR 700 an experience that had the potential to be an extremely uncomfortable and frustrating one.
The reality, however, was quite different thanks to the crew of United 7262. Using Emotional Intelligence to a degree that would make Daniel Goleman proud, they carefully and calmly kept the cabin cool, served refreshments with a smile and dealt with passenger questions with empathy and sincerity. It resulted in the 2.5 hrs passing rather quickly and painlessly with relaxed passengers chatting, reading or even sleeping. There was none of the customary grumbling, anger or frustration that normally characterizes such captivity.
It was a timely reminder to me of how customers often judge and remember you by how you react when problems arise. The reality is that when you deliver exactly what a customer expected when they purchased you have simply fulfilled your part of the bargain. When you go above and beyond and over-deliver or when you reaction to problems or issues is empathetic, rapid and effective you distinguish yourself. The crew of United 7262 did that today at a time when we have become so used to negative air travel experiences.
As a footnote not only was the delay not that cumbersome in the end but when I arrived at my hotel I was "guest of the day" with a gift basket waiting for me! So as a good friend of mine likes to say "some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you", well today the bear had a good go but emotional intelligence beat him back!