Life Lessons – from a six-hour delayed flight

Yesterday, my family and I spent 6 hours in Cardiff airport due to a technical difficulty with the plane: Flybe’s plane.  There – I named and shamed.  It was a horrible ending to what had been a fantastic weekend and I’ve been annoyed at myself for letting that incident become the story of the trip. Generally, I try to find the reason behind why things like this happen – perhaps Ewan McGregor or Sam Worthington would be passing through Cardiff airport that day?  Alas, that wasn’t the case or maybe I missed them while trying to convince the kids that they didn’t need yet another magazine with free crap on the front.

So this morning, after telling the third person in a row my awful, poor-me story, I started trying to think of what I’d learned through the experience.  Here is it:

Lesson 1)             People just want to be treated like humans

Faults happen, I understand that.  But having someone on hand to explain when things go wrong, giving your customers the opportunity to vent and perhaps a free cuppa, go a long way to restoring faith in a company.

At the gate, we watched, with dreaded anticipation, as the flight crew left the plane and walked back through the terminal building, without so much as an apology, before an automated voice announced that we would be delayed for at least 5 hours.  You can imagine the reaction.  At the heart of this frustration, or at least my own, was that no one cared enough to face us in person or even try to do something, no matter how small, to make the wait easier.

I was also left with a deep sense of injustice.  It appears that all my time was worth to this company was a £7.50 food voucher that they are required to give out and didn’t care about the ramifications or opportunity cost of that wasted afternoon.  And to top it all off, I was expected to pay for a cup of tea once we were finally on our way.  You can guess where I told them to go with that.

Lesson 2)             Have the courage of my convictions

This is the third time I’ve used and also been let down by Flybe and yet I buckled and gave them another shot because they were cheap and it was a more convenient (ha!) flight.  But I should have listened to the voice in my head that was screaming ARE YOU NUTS??!!!  They have an awful reputation for terrible customer service so why did I condone this by giving them my business?

I fundamentally believe that how we were treated was wrong.  I have written to complain and all the usual stuff but at the end of the day, I have to put my money where my mouth is and take my business elsewhere, if anything just to maintain my integrity.

Lesson 3)             People can be pretty amazing when the chips are down

I watched that once the reality of the length of the delay set in, people quickly returned to their normal levels of well-being.  People settled down to read or struck up conversations with strangers around them.  However, those who kicked up a real fuss (but didn’t actually do anything other than curse and moan to fellow passengers) maintained this level of frustration through the whole delay – it must have been knackering for them.  I’m also very pleased to say that only a handful of my fellow Scots used the delay as a chance to get drunk.

Also, we’re an optimistic bunch really. Once on board, the pilot announced that there had been a problem with the wheel but it had now been replaced.  As we were preparing to land and the wheels came down, the whole plane practically banked to the left as everyone craned their necks to make sure the new wheel would work.  But in spite of knowing it was a technical fault, we all still got on that plane.

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On a personal level, I got to see just how amazing my family and particularly my kids are (the photo above is what we all looked like by the time we got home…).  We supported each other when we got tired and needed a break and the kids kept us laughing and had no notable meltdowns.  A pat on the back for us as parents I think, hehe.

And if it happened for no other reason, at least I got a blog post out of it.

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