Kindness to Ticket Agent Benefits Travelers

July 1, 2011

in Airport Stories

It was February of 2010 when a friend and I decided to go and visit a close friend in Philadelphia. The two of us go to college in Texas about 100 miles outside of Houston. We booked our trip a few weeks in advance and planned on leaving Friday afternoon and returning Sunday evening to Houston.

On the Thursday before we were due to leave, we both received calls from Southwest Airlines. A big snowstorm was due to hit the Northeast and they were canceling our flight prematurely in anticipation of the weather hitting around that time. They offer us a refund of our money or the chance to fly out on a much earlier flight (6 am) from Houston Hobby to Philadelphia, via Chicago. My friend and I decided to take the early flights. We departed for Houston at about 3 in the morning, drove the 100 miles to Houston and arrived at about 4:30 am. Our flight was mostly empty and everything went very smoothly from Houston to Chicago, and then from Chicago on to Philly.

That evening the snowstorm hit hard. Being from Texas, any sort of flurry is a weather mystery to me. Seeing that much snow fall over about 20 hours was beyond mesmerizing. Of course, we spent most of the weekend indoors, but still had a good time with our friend.

On Sunday we woke up to phone calls from Southwest Airlines again. Our flights, and all flights out of Philadelphia, had been canceled. No surprise there, the ground was covered in several feet of snow. Southwest then offered us a chance to re-book our flights out of Philadelphia, giving us the option to leave on… gulp… Wednesday evening. As both my friend and I are college students in engineering, we have to get back home as soon as possible so we don’t skip too many classes and miss turning in some assignments. I convince my friend from Philly to drive us to the airport and see if we can get any more options than just sit around until Wednesday.

As we arrive at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter in a deserted Philadelphia airport, there is only one agent behind the desks. I go up to talk to him; then a very irate older man walks up to the counter and begins to verbally harass the agent. Apparently, he needed to get home to Chicago or wherever and could not believe that the flights were canceled (despite the layer of snow outside). The agent stood behind the desk not knowing what to say to the man. It was in no way the airline’s fault that any flight was canceled as no planes were taking off or leaving. But this man must have thought that the agent had solely conjured up a snowstorm to block him from returning home.

The man leaves, still pretty angry and without any alternatives except to wait it out. I decide that I’m going to be polite to the agent who was just wrongly harassed by some idiotic man. I walk up and make a little small talk, joke about the man who had just left. I then asked if there is anyway my friend and I can get on a flight before Wednesday afternoon. The agent tells us that we could wait standby for the next couple of days, but that we’d most likely just spend two days at the airport waiting for seats that wouldn’t be there. I ask about alternate airports, and the agent gets us both on flights the next morning out of Islip, New York on Long Island. It was a sure deal, as we had confirmed seats, and our best bet of getting out of the snow-covered Northeast. The agent then thanks us for being nice, and tells us that he considered offering the same deal to the angry old man, but decided to let him sweat it out since he was so irate and unreasonable.

Now the game became how to get to Long Island? Our Philly friend offered to drive us both, but that was a 6 hour roundtrip drive for her, getting her back to Philly at around 3 am. She works and goes to school, so I quickly ruled that out as an option. Instead, my Texas friend and I started calling rental car companies to try to get us to Long Island. After several phone calls and conversations, we found out that no company would rent us a car for cheaper than about $200. It made sense, as we were both under 25, and the roads were iced up.

We ended up getting tickets on Amtrak to New York City, and then took the Long Island Rail Road from New York Penn Station to Islip. It took about 3 hours and put us in a freezing Long Island at midnight. We took a cab to the airport to see if there was any way we could get a deal on a hotel room for a few hours. The airport was closed, but we did find flyers for a “distressed passenger rate” at a local hotel. It was still about $60 for a room, but it gave us the chance to sleep for a few hours. We woke at 6 am the next morning, took another cab back to the airport and checked in for our 7:40 flight.

The flights were a blur of sleep. We connected back through Chicago and on to Houston, arriving at Hobby Airport at about 3 pm. We got in the car and made the trip back to our college by 6 pm, tired but still laughing about the weekend’s adventure.

I guess this does not really count as a “flight from hell’ as all our flights aboard Southwest were very pleasant. Most of them involved gratuitous amounts of sleep. From the whole ordeal, I definitely learned that the best way to react to a situation that’s no one’s fault is to be patient and polite. Yelling and throwing a fit at the airport is going to get your nowhere. In the end, it got my friend and I back home much quicker than waiting around in Philly for a couple of days.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Belle July 1, 2011 at 2:43 pm

My mom always said that a few kind words can go a long way. That certainly proved true in your case.


April <3 July 3, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Im glad you got home! I go to the Islip airport a lot and there has never been any issues :D. Long Island Railroad can be scary at times, especially in the dead of night but Im glad you all are alright. :). Good luck in school!


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