Here’s a shout out to Wanda Coat, a Northwest flight attendant who did more for my opinion of her employer than any amount of advertising or any public relations spin ever could.
Truth is, I wasn’t looking forward to my flight on Northwest over Labor Day weekend. It’s a tough time to fly and Northwest hasn’t exactly been polling well with the traveling public. I don’t think much of Northwest’s rapacious seating policy or the misleading way it blamed its pilots for a wave of flight cancellations earlier this summer.
But my experience on a flight from Detroit to San Diego had very little to do with all that. It had a lot more to do with the crew, and that’s where Wanda came in.
In fact, I didn’t really fly with Wanda. She was the flight attendant in first class, and I was sitting just behind, having been lucky enough to score a switch to a bulkhead seat at check-in.
But she stopped to talk to me, with a friendly "penny for your thoughts," and we had a conversation about our daughters — we each have one of about the same age — and our lives and our goals, which are remarkably similar. Then she had to get back to work and I got on with the flight, feeling much more connected and welcome than I had before.
I’m not going to claim that one friendly employee can erase all the misery of canceled flights, endless delays and packed jets. But I am going to claim that it makes a difference, a significant difference, when travelers are treated with compassion and consideration.
Wanda didn’t tell me her name. I asked another flight attendant, so I hope I got it right. I’m going to write to Northwest, too, and tell the airline that it’s lucky to have an employee like Wanda Coat. I hope they treat her as well as she treated me.