LUV Letters

An Act of Kindness

By:

Going to an airport and getting on a plane and traveling to unfamiliar territory takes on a whole new meaning when one has a hearing loss.  A routine flyer so to speak, I was familiar with how to fly and, despite a hearing loss, was able to hear well enough and connect with those whether I flew solo or with others.  When my hearing loss became severe, and I was married with children, the concept of flying was well, new.  I had to weigh whether I thought I could.  First, one must remember this was several years ago and things were a tad different then.  Second, the dynamics of an airport and planes were not exactly conducive to for the hard of hearing or deaf.  But thanks to Southwest, I fly with confidence today.

What connected me to Southwest was not a flight, but an act of kindness years ago by one man.

I had a flight with someone other than Southwest.  I was traveling with two boys 3 ½ and 9 months and had to do this alone.  A bad snow storm in another region had disrupted flights and the line at the airport was unlike anything I had seen before.  I called for help from an employee of the airline I was to fly and he told me to stay in line and listen to the intercom.  He actually asked me, “How hard can that be – just do what they say!”  At this point, I was, in a word – Afraid.  The flight could easily take off without us, I could not step out of line to go ask what was being said on the intercom and the people in front and behind me did not wish to be of assistance.  I had the two kids who were being very quiet and well-behaved but they were too young to leave alone or to ask one to go to the counter to ask for assistance!  I finally reached out again to someone passing by that looked like an airport assistant.  He took one look at me while handling another customer in a wheelchair and said, “Can you wait? I will be right back!”  This person returned, an empty wheel chair in hand, placed my baby in the chair, took my three-year-old by the hand with a smile, and looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s get you taken care of.”

We went to the counter, passing an incredibly long line of people, at which time I thanked him and asked that he go on his way.  He refused, stating he was taking me to my flight as it was going to take off shortly.  He then escorted the children and I all the way to the gate.

And he was a Southwest Employee.

Again, I was not flying Southwest.  He was on his way to the Southwest terminal further down from where I was to take off, and so he offered to be of assistance.   It was at that point, I promised to fly Southwest on future flights.  My son is now in high school and we have held true to that promise.   There are several heartwarming stories I can share about flying Southwest and welcome the opportunity to do so.  The first was when our youngest son became severely ill just hours before we were scheduled to return home.  We were at a restaurant with family and just finished eating to head to the airport when my youngest went from a happy go lucky two-year-old to one that was seriously ill, just in the blink of an eye.  I was panicked about cancelling three flights, let alone having to reschedule.  We called while in route to the hospital and Southwest put our child’s concerns above all else – as only Southwest can do.  The Southwest assistant spoke calmly and asked if we were on our way to a doctor or hospital and then asked if it was okay to proceed with canceling the flight.  She wanted the child taken care of first.  After a very brief conversation, she cancelled the flight and then asked that we focus on our child and not worry about our return flight until we knew more.  She shared that Southwest would ensure we got home when needed, so we could take that worry off our plate.  In an emergency situation and one where our son proved so seriously ill, it was the kind acts that made the difference.  It was a long time later Southwest held true to their promise and we returned home safe and sound with a healthy son.

When the kids were a little older, around 3 and 6, we were flying from Florida to Maryland to see their Great Grandmother.  The three of us were so excited!  The flight went smoothly until we were close to Boston.  During our descent, the winds picked up severely and had us “winging” it from side to side.  I knew my goal was to keep the kids happy and immediately started talking about what fun it was to be on the airplane “ride”.  The flight attendants pitched in and we were singing “wheee” as we dove from the left to the right of the plane – and several passengers joined in.  When we landed, there was a round of applause and people stopping to thank us for our efforts.  But it was the flight attendants who had captured what we were doing and helped – they made it happen and they made a difference for our boys, and possibly other passengers, to feel safe flying.  The real joy was when people asked where the slot was to put the quarter in and “ride” again!  Again – Southwest has the right attitude to think outside the box and my kids still love to fly to this day.

The greatest story was my flight to and from my first Hearing Loss convention in Portland, Oregon. By then, my hearing had changed to “deaf” without hearing aids.  This is a whole different game for me and one that is still taking time to process and understand and know what to do. It can be paralyzing and restrict me in many ways, if I allow it.  Now, prior flight experience might ensure my understanding of the evacuation procedures, but I would not hear what was said in the event of a real emergency.  In addition, I could no longer hear anything shared on the intercom about weather, landing, delays or other flight information.  Southwest, again, gave me confidence to stand tall (not too tall – I am already almost six feet!) and went above and beyond – as they always do.

I was flying to Portland in June of 2012 for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) National Convention. It was my first hearing loss convention and an incredible experience with so much to offer those impacted by hearing loss (the hearing, hard of hearing and deaf).  While there, a tropical storm was brewing close to where we live in Florida.  So Sunday after the Convention was complete, my Hearing Dog from Canine Companions for Independence, LaRue II, and I set out for a trip home and through some potentially bad weather.  When boarding, I shared with the flight attendants, as I always do, that I cannot hear but can read lips.  In the event of an emergency – I asked if they would ensure I could “see” what they were saying.  I also shared I was familiar with emergency procedures and would do my part so as not to add to their job.   I do not ask for them to share what the Captain has to say before, during or upon landing as it adds to their work load and they are busy as it is. However, on this flight, I wanted to know what to expect on the return flight home – how bumpy it might be or if we might have to fly around any bad weather.  So, I asked the flight attendant what the weather was in our home area.  She smiled and signed to me to wait and went around the corner.  She did not treat me any different, she simply used a clear choice of words I might be able to understand via reading her lips and used her body language to share that she was happy to help and for me to wait just a moment.  It was so very natural for her to do – a gift of sorts.  She returned a short while later with a Southwest napkin in hand and politely handed it to me with the indication to look at it.

When I looked down, the napkin, the Pilot had written:

LIGHT RAIN
A LITTLE WINDY
77’

I was laughing tears of joy with the ability to understand and know they would treat me as an equal – sharing what information I might need for myself or my CCI hearing dog, LaRue II.

Napkin

The stories may not be that significant to others but they mean the world to me.  Until you have walked in the shoes of hearing loss and being in public places or traveling with children, it might be difficult to understand.  But Southwest makes the difference.

There might be times when it is not as “perfect” as one might like, as we are all human and we all make mistakes.  I often ask, would we be able to do what they do, every day?  I am most thankful to have “grown” with Southwest as a customer and support their efforts.  I can only begin to imagine what they deal with handling so many personalities, needs and flights around the country – day in and day out.  WOW!

LaRue

Blessings to all and thank you for taking the time to …listen.

13 Comments

  1. As a former resident of Long Island NY, (now living in Sacramento CA) I loved the convenience of flying out of our local airport, MacArthur Airport and avoiding the bumper to bumper traffic one hits when driving towards the city. I was even more thrilled when Southwest took over part of the building expansion there…MacArthur was turning into the best!

    I try to visit my sons who still reside in LI but its getting harder and harder to get that convenience that I grew so accustomed to. No longer can I find available flights out of Sacramento to LI but now I have to fly into LaGuardia. I feel like SW is abandoning its customers. Whats happened?

    I still try to fly SW when I can but I’m getting more and more disappointed.

    Sad flyer :(

    • Hi Sandra … I’m sorry to learn of your disappointment. While I am unable to answer your question, I’ve forwarded your comment to our Customer Relations folks for response.

  2. What happened to the non-stops from Chicago Midway to Tampa?

  3. I would like to personally thank two outstanding employees at the Tampa location for being so kind and really helping me and my elderly parents. In the confusion of moving them from Florida to Ohio, I accidentally booked the wrong departing flight. So when we arrived at the airport we had to tickets and all flights were booked. I had my parents in wheelchairs while I tried to figure this out. Pat was very understanding and helpful and so kind by checking on my parents. Franky was working very hard on trying to get us on a flight. After about an hour, we were on the 3:00 flight to Canton, Ohio in first class!!! I can’t tell you how kind Franky and Pat were in this situation. They are great caring employees and deserve recognition. I will book with Southwest in the future. A little kindness goes a long way. Thanks Franky and Pat!!!

    Debra Deuble Flight date 7-27-13 TPA to CAK

    • Hi Debra! So glad that Franky and Pat took such great care of you. I’ll forward your compliment to our Customer Relations, folks so they can get some kudos sent their way. Thanks!

  4. Southwest Airlines….what more is there to say? :-)

    Paul in CRP

  5. I was very disappointed to hear that Southwest Airlines is discontinuing their non stop service between St. Louis and Louisville and St. Louis and Birmingham.
    I hope they will replace the flights with service to other cities and continue to build their schedule in St. Louis which American Airlines left in shambles after their buyout of TWA many years ago.

  6. I thought I was going to have a nightmare of a trip to see my granddaughter’s high school graduation this month. I was traveling with my 91 year old mother and a service dog. It was the first time since we got the service dog that I was traveling by air and I had a thousand questions. I wrote to customer service and instead of writing an answer to all my questions, I actually got a phone call. How unusual that is in this day of no customer service, especially in the airline industry. The people on the ground were equally helpful and our trip, including all the connections, went seamlessly. I do have to mention one particular flight attendant. Her name was Wanda and was on the last flight out of Denver into Salt Lake City on June 8th. Her presentations were so delightful that everyone on the plane was listening to see what she would say next. Her service was flawless as well. I hope that the company reads this and finds this woman to say a special thanks to her for us. Everyone turned what could have been very stressful, into a very pleasurable experience. Thanks to all.

  7. would never fly anything but Southwest – which i do frequently

    • Me too but alas, I don’t live here. I was literally bursting to shout it from the rooftop or to my folks from where I had just departed for the flight to Nashville TN. So when my girl friend called me to ask how was my flight, the words just tumbled out”this has to be the most stress-free trip I have ever flown” I was looking for an opportunity to tell SW this, and that’s the main reason I registered today.
      I do not know how they achieve that effect, but each time I hear the staff thank us for choosing SW over other airlines you know they mean it because it doesn’t sound hollow.

  8. This doesnt surprise me. I have never had anything but positive experiences flying Southwest. The only time I fly another airline is to go to Europe, or Hawaii. I’m hoping my options to Hawaii change soon!

    • CHECK & CALL S.W., as they MAY BE FLYING TO “HAWAII” SOON! THEY used to code share with A.T.A. airlines (went out of business, due to Govt. contracts! / that CANCELLED!!) THEY MAY BE USING THEIR “GATES” IN HAWAII!! SOON! WE WERE TO HAWAII, flew on American AIR, on “air miles”!
      I, SINCERELY WISH, THEY WOULD “FLY” TO EUROPE!!! IT WOULD BE GRAND!! (SICK & TIRED OF ALL THE “FEES” CHARGED TO EUROPE!)

  9. Great story. Always had a good experience with Southwest … cannot say the same for Delta.

    • SvB — 05-21-2013 at 7:35 pm
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