Saturday, July 23, 2005

As a Customer Service Manager at DFW for the world's largest airline, I was out in the operation helping board an oversold flight on a busy summer afternoon a while back. I remember we had a lot of standbys that day (both employees and their parents, spouses, partners, children, etc.) and frankly, chances looked pretty slim for most of them, to be honest.

After soliciting volunteers (who then joined the throngs of standbys crowding the gate area) I started the boarding process. Soon the lounge cleared out to only those passengers and standbys waiting for a seat. We released the seats of the no-shows about 10 minutes before departure time and discovered we had a handful of seats to dole out in the order on the priority list in the computer. We handed the first seats backed to the volunteers, then did some juggling for the couples trying to get seated together, and finally came down to accommodating one revenue passenger who had missed an earlier flight.

It was now about 3 minutes before departure and I had very little time left to get that aircraft door closed for an on-time departure. I told the standbys that we were sorry, but there were no more seats and I'd be right back to 'roll' them to the next flight. Immediately one man jumped up and accosted me at the jetbridge door (he was really far down on the standby list if memory serves me well.) "Whadda ya mean there's no more seats - I WANT MY SEAT NOW before this plane leaves," he bellowed. "I'm sorry sir, but you're standby and there are no more seats on this flight, I replied." He looked shocked and replied angrily: "Look, I've stood by for over an hour, and now I want my seat so I can get on this flight!"

Luckily a fellow agent ran down to button up the flight, while I took him aside for a stern discussion. As it turned out, he was an employee's brother who hadn't grasped the whole concept of standby as it was explained to him. He actually thought it meant waiting until departure time to find out what seat assignment he'd have on the flight. And for that he thought he could fly free?!! When I finally got through to him, he became totally irate and just said "I'm never flying this outfit again!"
Sometimes you've just gotta laugh and move on to help the next genius in line.


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