If you have been on a plane lately, then you know that flying has become an almost miserable experience. No one wants to pay for their baggage, so they try to carry on as much as possible. Everyone tries to get on the plane as quickly as possible to make sure their carry-on bag has space in the overhead compartment. Seats are smaller. The seats toward the front of the plane (behind first class) are now considered an upgrade on most flights and cost extra money. People are rushed. People are uncomfortable. You no longer get a meal on a flight (unless you pay for it, and even then, they are usually out of most of the choices by the time they get to the seats near the back).
Airlines tend to be the one industry that doesn’t care at all about customer service. Rather than getting better over the years, they have been getting increasingly worse.
That is why my story of my trip to Seattle on Alaska airlines stands out.
When my husband and I went to check in on the Internet the day before our flight, there were no seats left together. My anxiety started to go up. When I fly, it helps me to be in an aisle seat because I drink a lot of water on the flight and have to get up frequently to use the bathroom. My husband, always the good sport, takes the middle seat even though it is the least desirable, so that we can be together on the flight and he can help me if I am overcome by anxiety.
We went to the airport at 6 in the morning (two hours early) to see if we could change seats and also to make sure that we weren’t rushed or hurried. When we arrived at the airport we asked a woman by the Alaska ticket counter if we could change our seats. She told us it was better to change them with the person working at the gate.
We headed for the security line. We took out all of our liquids. We took off our shoes. We put our laptop in a bin by itself. We emptied our pockets. We have traveled enough since 9/11 to know the rules about security. We made it through the x-rays (I got patted down) without incident.
We found a departure board and located our gate. We started walking down the long corridors with the people movers. We had plenty of time, so we walked on the carpet in the center instead of on the moving sidewalk. At our gate, we found two seats, and made ourselves comfortable. There were no employees at the gate yet. My husband went to get coffee and my water for the flight, and when he returned I went to find the restroom.
At the gate next to ours, there were Alaska employees, and even though it is so unlike my husband to do anything outside the rules or norm, he went to the neighboring gate and asked the woman working if she could seat us together. She changed our seats (moving us up a few rows, but we still weren’t together). She told us to wait until the crew members for our gate showed up.
As soon as the employees working our flight showed up, my husband jumped up and went to ask if they could seat us together. He told the woman at the gate, “My wife has a mental illness and can’t fly alone.”
The woman my husband talked to said she would work on it, but she wouldn’t have an answer for us until almost the time that we needed to board. The flight was a full flight. There was only one seat open on the plane. She must have had to ask other passengers if they were willing to move to try and accommodate my husband and me. I am not sure, but close to the time we were boarding, she called my husband up to the gate and gave him boarding passes for two seats that were next to each other – an aisle seat and a middle seat.
This may not seem like a big deal, but in a travel environment where no one seems to care about the comfort of the passenger, this was extraordinary. The Alaska employees worked hard to make sure that we would be as comfortable as possible and they did it willingly, kindly and with smiles.
We booked another flight to Seattle last night, and without a bit of thought or hesitation, we booked it on Alaska.