I am infinitely interested in certain things and completely disinterested in others, which includes anything mechanical; you can find a little middle ground with me.
When I put my key in the ignition of my car, something happens to start it that I don’t need to understand. I like watching good TV shows, but I don’t care how the picture gets to my TV. But if you show me a customer service champion, I’m totally over it. I’m totally curious about people making a difference.
Which brings me to in a man of this character?
My wife and I flew to Arizona to spend a week in Sedona. Our flight to Denver was scheduled to depart from Baltimore on United Airlines. About 30 minutes before our scheduled departure, we were sitting at the gate waiting to board when the Jet way door opened. The United captain appeared, strode to the ticket counter and grabbed the microphone. Based on my extensive flying experience, my brain was bombarded with various possible scenarios – none of them good!
Then this captain began to speak. “Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I’m your captain, Denny Flanagan.” He went on to describe the weather we were expecting and our route. He then said, “We’re flying a Boeing 757 this morning. If you have any questions about the plane or the flight during our flight, I’ll be happy to answer them. Our plane this morning is in great shape.” There was a long pause, then, “And I’m in good shape.” The passengers laughed. “By the way,” he continued, “this is my first flight.” Silence… “Today!” he added with a smirk.
He’s doing a smooch! He’s a pilot I can relate to the same way.
Among the waiting passengers, I saw their moods change quickly like a wave. They weren’t anxious or worried before, just indifferent or tired. After this announcement they seemed jovial and eager to board.
We wondered what would happen next.
As we began boarding, Captain Flanagan was standing at the door of the plane handing out cards with the 757 on one side and a description of the plane on the other. As I greeted him, I mentioned that I was an executive coach and consultant who published a monthly newsletter. I said I would like to write something about his friendliness and gave him my business card. He replied that he would like to talk sometime.
An hour into our flight, Anne, the purser, spoke on the intercom, saying, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Here at United, we believe that travel should be fun. Captain Flanagan is raffling off discounted united tickets.”
Wait, now we’re having a raffle? What next? Karaoke?
He continued, “Please write on your cocktail napkin the reason why you chose United for your flight. Then I will draw four napkins and read the answers. Each of those people will receive a coupon worth a discount on a future united flight.”
The raffle ended and I didn’t win. But a few minutes later, Anne came down the aisle with one of Captain Flanagan’s business cards. On the back was a note that read:, you are a valued customer and your is greatly appreciated. Please let me know how we can exceed your expectations. Could you also wait for me after the flight?” “.
I wasn’t able to meet her because of a tight connection in Denver, so I asked Anne to tell her that I would call her after my vacation in Sedona, saying that I wanted to know more about her. Before giving his answer to Denny in the cockpit, he told me what he knew about this unusual and extraordinary man:
He holds a raffle on every flight and posts the cocktail napkin
Answers where united employees can read them. He has a large number of copies of a coffee-table-sized united history book and presents them to united associates, who are exceptionally responsive to customers. He handwrites a personal note of thanks on the back of his business cards to every first class passenger on every flight. He gives unaccompanied minors on his flights his personal credit card so they can use the in-flight phone to call home.
One of Denny’s co-pilots, Buck Wyndham (what’s that pilot’s name?), was so impressed that he asked Denny if he could record him for several days after the brass came around to the idea. The video recording was later used for training in the company.
When I got home from that vacation, I talked to Denny and several people close to him. My primary question was, “What created this commitment to ?” said, “I do it because it’s my job.” Not a man who tends to congratulate himself. His wife, Terri, told me he had a deep sense of duty and loyalty that endured despite adverse circumstances. His mate Bud Potts, another united pilot, could not explain this quality of Denny’s. She expressed her admiration for both who Denny is and what he does.