Before you leave your house, office, apartment, gym etc, or before you board your flight, follow these VERY simple steps to make the traveling process substantially better for you…
Go online to Starbucks.com*
Purchase a MINIMUM of one $5 gift card (you can purchase several gift cards at various incremental values if you wish, and choose the graphic you want to use to accompany it).
Alternatively, do the same thing at your nearest brick-and-mortar Starbucks, or at the airport (I don’t recommend the latter usually because the lines are longer at airports and you are pressed for time).
The next step is the most important:
Hand the Gift Card to Your Gate Agent(s) as You Board Your Flight (or at the Podium Before Boarding Begins)
We all know what has been taking place in the news lately across U.S. carriers.
We all know that there have been two sides to every story, but the bottom line is that people, in general, are just being outright nasty towards one another.
Let’s acknowledge that regardless of who is in the right and who is not, the public and the media are capitalizing on each situation to try and get their 15 minutes of fame.
It’s disgusting. It is humiliating. It’s shameful. And enough is enough.
The isolated incidents that took place at American and United over the past two weeks have been preventable. What happened at American this past week made me realize that passengers can play a role in helping to prevent these situations from taking place with a simple gesture of kindness.
Everyone needs to remember that gate agents are human beings, too, and that boarding a flight of 100+ people (on average) can be an overwhelming task for ANYONE.
And I mean everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO at a multi-national firm or someone who has waited tables for 20+ years or been a bar server or works in air traffic control.
It can be a thankless job.
Always, always remember that.
I’ve shadowed gate agents in the past who have had to board a flight with hundreds of variables. You have customers with disabilities. Single parents traveling with infants. Unaccompanied minors. Distressed families traveling at the last minute for a dying relative or the sudden passing of a loved one. Customers of size. Passengers who speak little to no English. People who have forgotten IDs, passports, wallets, phones or somehow slipped through security with a bag too large to fit into an overhead bin. Airline employees and their families who are trying to fly on standby.
Yes, all of the above examples are common and can occur all at once on just a regular flight.
And for each isolated scenario, you have to juggle between informing the crew on the plane, communicating with other ground staff, being adept at quick keystrokes on your machine at the podium, answering questions from customers, responding in a quick manner to any and every inquiry that flies right at you, often without an expression of, “hello, please and thank you.”
Imagine the complexities that arise when the circumstances are exacerbated by operational incidents: the flight is delayed, or weight-restricted, or facing a mechanical issue. Passengers are pissed off about being late. Others are fearful of missing their connections. Some are angry about not getting an upgrade, or didn’t read the fine print and understand that they have to pay for oversized carry-ons or seat assignments with their families.
Then, there are truly stressful scenarios like a canceled flight or oversell and denied boarding situations, which lead to a VERY different set of responses from passengers.
This happens to each airline every. single. day.
It does not excuse a gate agent or flight attendant to lose their cool. In any job situation, getting angry, violent or argumentative with a customer will never end well.
But at the very least, we can all use a little extra dose of compassion for the frustration that gate agents experience, and all it takes is a small gesture of goodwill and appreciation to make their day better.
So that when they finally close a flight that was particularly hard for them because they hated to see the faces of several families who may not make it in time for a cruise leaving from Fort Lauderdale because the snowstorm in Newark delayed their flight, they can at least walk over to the nearest coffee shop and get something to eat using the gift card you bought them.
Because it’s now 11:00 AM and they showed up to the airport at 4:00 AM to work the early bank of departures and having to rebook customers and deal with upset passengers prevented them from taking a bathroom break, much less getting a proper breakfast.
Do the right thing. Show some appreciation for airline employees.
Remember, they’re humans, too.
There’s a flow chart below that can help you.
*NB: Starbucks is just an example of a merchant, but feel free to use any other vendor you’d like! Amazon, McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, Best Buy, Jamba Juice, Chipotle, Chick Fil A, Walmart, CVS, Apple, Costco, Fandango, Krispy Kreme, Netflix, Home Depot, Olive Garden, Nike, Lowe’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, JC Penny, Toys R US, Whole Foods, Dicks, VISA cash or eBay, just a few examples.