Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Southwest Airline ROCKS!

I was going to write about my experiences at BlogHer'12 last weekend.  But it's Olympic week and I thought this was more relevant.  I'll get back to BlogHer'12 later. 

Southwest Airlines gets the Gold for this one.

Our son Mike is a Track and Field Coach at the University of Illinois in Champaign.  Last month one of his athletes qualified to compete in Eugene, Oregon for a spot on the Olympic Pole Vault team. 

On the plane to Oregon sitting in a window seat Mike watched the luggage arrive on the carts.  He noticed the cylinders that held the poles moving down the conveyor belt.  All this disappeared under the plane as the baggage handlers loaded the luggage.

The flight attendants began securing the cabin making sure everyone was buckled in and they locked the cabin doors.  The plane began to back away from the gate and turn so that Mike and the plane were parallel to the gate they had just pulled away from.

Mike looked out the window again and saw the cylinders with the poles still on the conveyor.  Disaster!

He was heart sick and motioned quietly to the flight attendant.  He didn't want to make a scene because his athlete was across the aisle and he didn't want to alarm her. He said he also didn't want to get himself thrown off the plane and onto some "watch" list. :)

He told the attendant his situation and what he just saw. He told her they might as well get off the plane if the poles weren't on it. Poles are very an equestrian and his horse. This was a chance of a lifetime for his athlete and all he could was watch from the window as the plane moved away.
The attendant said what you might expect.  They could not go back to the gate at this point. The doors were locked and they were third in line for take off.  She said she'd call the pilot just in case. He watched her go to the front of the cabin and make the call.  

She came back to Mike and said she was sorry, but it was impossible to turn around.  

(Putting the poles on another flight was not an option because they wouldn't arrive in time for her event. It's a long story but through no fault of Mike's or his athlete they were already late for the meet.)

So, Mike sat as the plane inched forward for take-off knowing there were no pole vault poles on board. 

Suddenly, Mike and the passengers felt the plane begin to make a sharp left turn and circle back to the gate.  The pilot came on and apologized to the passengers saying they had a baggage issue and would be delayed about 30 minutes.  Mike watched from his window as the the conveyor belt with the poles appeared again and heard the baggage compartment open as the poles were loaded onto the plane. 

Cool huh?  But wait, there's more.....

Nearing their destination, the pilot came on the intercom to inform passengers they were beginning their descent to the Eugene airport. He apologized for the delay saying,

"We have an Olympic Pole Vault hopeful on board and we forgot her poles.  We had to go back and get them."   

The entire plane erupted in applause. (Most of the passengers were going to Eugene to watch the trials.) The pilot continued, asking the athlete and her coach to remain on the plane for a few minutes when they landed so he could meet them and personally apologize.  Mike told us he was thinking, "Apologize to us? I want to thank them!"  

Not only did the pilot and co-pilot apologize, but they gave his athlete a $100 voucher for Southwest Airlines.

Nice, right?

But wait, there's still more....

As Mike talked to the pilot and co-pilot he learned that on this flight the co-pilot actually out-ranked the pilot.  The co-pilot filled in at the last minute so he could get to Eugene, OR to watch the trials.  

Apparently the co-pilot overheard the pilot's end of the phone conversation with the flight attendant and a small argument ensued in the cockpit resulting in the plane going back for the poles.  

Why was this co-pilot so adamant about turning the plane around and getting the poles, you might ask? 

Hold on to your hats, folks.....besides just being the right thing to do,  this co-pilot's daughter was also a pole vaulter competing in the same event as Mike's athlete! :)

Heads probably rolled and money was probably lost.....but hearts were saved! :)

Way to Go, Southwest Airlines, YOU ROCK!

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