Saturday, September 22, 2007

If kindness is contagious, some people are immune

Greetings from Yellowstone National Park.

Yesterday was a miserable day for flyers in the midwest.

Storms caused a number of flight delays and cancellations. The last Northwest flight from Milwaukee to Detroit was delayed several hours due to a line of thunderstorms stranding many travelers in Milwaukee.

My own flight to Minneapolis was delayed a little more than an hour due to bad weather and then we flew a long route via Green Bay to get around some storms. Late but I made it in time to catch my flight to Bozeman, Montana.

The flight to Bozeman was supposed to leave at 9:07 p.m. It didn't.

First, a flight attendant's inbound connecting flight was late by a few minutes.

Then, unbeknownst to some on the plane, an ambulance was in the path of the aircraft.

And there were many passengers whose inbound flights to Minneapolis were delayed.

So we waited.

The boarding door finally closed but due to the emergency activity the plane could not leave the gate.

Knock, knock.

A late incoming passenger was knocking at the door and was admitted to the plane.

This scene repeated itself about a half dozen times, much to the vocal chagrin of the lead flight attendant, who kept complaining about it, and several impatient passengers who apparently were unaware that the plane also couldn't leave the gate area until the emergency vehicles cleared.

When the final late passenger was boarded, the door was closed again and someone yelled out, "Are we going to leave now?"

I've seen several instances where Northwest flights, particularly from Detroit, have left early stranding passengers connecting from late inbound flights who were in the airport and en route to the gate and the flight was the last one of the day. So it was nice Northwest doing the right thing for a change.

I am one of the least patient people in the world, but give me a break. How would you feel if the connecting plane was still at the gate, you ran from the other end of the airport because your inbound flight was late and you knocked on the door and were not allowed to board?

It's not uncommon for airlines to be a bit more flexible when it's the last flight of the day. And once in Milwaukee we had a nice twist on a Delta flight to Atlanta where the captain told us that a Midwest Express flight had been cancelled and several passengers would be stranded if they couldn't board the Delta flight. He said it would take 10-15 minutes to get them on board and asked us to vote whether we should stay or leave. We voted -- unanimously -- to wait.

I'm sure those Atlanta-bound passengers were quite happy to get home for the weekend rather than be stranded.

On the flip side, today I was at the West Yellowstone post office wrapping a package to be sent home. Another fellow was busying paying bills. The service windows were closed but several people came in with problems -- a very frustrated woman who couldn't get the stamp machine to work, another woman who couldn't get the key to work in her post office box, German and Dutch tourists who wanted to know how much it would cost to send a postcard home and somebody who needed to find internet access.

We paused to help each of them and then each other. The local fellow, who runs an auto body shop, said to one person who thanked us, "It's no problem. Helping a neighbor is the Montana way."

It's amazing in life how we remember the kindnesses and never forget the rudeness that occasionally comes our way. There's some folks who were on my flight to Bozeman last night who could use a new learning curve.

No comments: