As I found Seat 18A aboard a Continental Express flight from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to the Midland/Odessa airport, I settled into my routine. Sony noise-cancelling headphones? Check. Kindle stowed in seat pocket for takeoff? Check. Carry-on bag neatly stowed in overhead bin? Check.
Admittedly, I don’t pay much attention to the goings-on of other boarding travelers on most days. That day, however, I noticed something different. The flight attendant was amazingly polite. Her banter pleasant and sincere. Each passenger was greeted with a “thank you for flying with us today” and gentle suggestions for comfort as the attendant performed her pre-flight check of the cabin. Normally, I wouldn’t notice. Today, however, there was something VERY familiar about the attendant. Probably just coincidence. Then, something caught my eye…and I grinned.
I settled back in my seat, and before I knew it, the aircraft had leveled out at our cruising altitude, and the attendant began our in-flight beverage service. Normally, I don’t get excited about an over-iced, 5 ounce plastic cup of soda and a Hobbit sized handful of peanuts. Today, I couldn’t wait.
The flight attendant approached my row, made eye contact, and, as I expected, asked, “Mr. Cooksey, what could I get to you drink this afternoon?”
“Judy”, I smiled as I answered her, “you won’t remember me, but a few…”
She put her hand up to stop me mid-sentence to say, “You’re the gentleman who wrote the blog!”
“So you got it?”, I asked, unsure if my message by way of the @Continental account on Twitter had been received.
“My supervisor brought a copy of it to me. Before that, I didn’t even know what a blog was.”
We laughed, chatted a few minutes, and she continued service to the remaining passengers.
Upon our arrival at the Midland/Odessa, TX airport, I slowly gathered my belongings so I could exit last. I wanted to make sure to thank her again for continuing to make a difference in each passenger’s experience, whether THEY noticed it or not.
After thanking Judy for the opportunity to share her story from that flight nearly three years earlier to my audiences, she said to me, “You speak and train on customer service, right?”
“Among other topics. Why do you ask?”
Then she dropped the bombshell, “What could I be doing differently to be even better?”
Stumped, I replied, “Judy…just keep doing it. YOU are the example I’ve been using for the past three years of someone who takes initiative, is sincere, and puts others before herself for the sake of great service.” Then I asked her, “If I may, where did YOU learn about the importance of great service.”
“Probably from my parents”, she humbly replied. “They owned a dime store while I was growing up. My father always said the key to his success was treating people with enthusiasm and respect.”
Judy, I’m not sure what the future holds for you, but I know you will continue to share your smile, sincere voice, and quiet confidence about you wherever the road (or the skies) may take you.
In a world with thousands of domestic flights each day, thousands of flight crews, and countless travel schedules, it isn’t often that I see the same flight attendant more than once. When I do, rarely have they left the impression Judy has on me. Every time I board a Continental Express flight, I look for Judy. If you see her, please be sure to tell her I said hello!
And, yes….she DID give me the entire can of Diet Coke during beverage service. I didn’t even have to ask!