April 25, 2013

A Tale of Blue Cities: Calming A Nervous Flyer

I was traveling to Boston this week for a day trip – a quick up and back for a meeting.  Before boarding began, I was chatting with our Airport Opertions crewmembers at the gate in Orlando when a young man named Andy came to the counter with a concerned look on his face.  He explained he was a nervous flier and wanted to know when we would be boarding.

As we waited to board, I inquired about his seat assignment and found out he was in the front row.  This made me happy because in my past experiences as both a flight attendant and traveler, nervous fliers feel better when they can see the flight attendant during take-off and landing, or when there is turbulence.  Customers tend to read the body language of the crew for indications if they should be worried about the small bumps in the air or noises they may hear at takeoff and landing, which are common to the crew but may concern people who don’t travel much.

Andy told me about a recent flight he had taken with another airline that ended with an emergency landing – an experience that had left him fearful about flying.

When we boarded, I told the Inflight crewmember at the front about Andy’s experience and asked her to check in with him before takeoff and landing.  She was awesome – she introduced herself, and even had the Captain come out of the flight deck to speak with Andy before we left the gate.

About an hour into our flight, Ian, our Captain, came on the PA to let us know that he was receiving an indicator light and as a precaution, we would be making an unscheduled landing in Jacksonville to have it checked.  My first thought was about Andy seated up front and how we would react to the news.  As we stowed our belongings for landing, I made my way to the front to take the empty seat across the aisle from him.

I assured him that safety is JetBlue’s number one value and that while it was an unplanned landing, it was not an emergency and would still be a normal landing.  As we made our approach I could see the tension in his arms as he gripped the seat and so I began to ask him questions about his work and his family.  Before long, his seat mate joined in and together we talked to him through the landing.  Even the couple seated in the row behind him gave words of encouragement.  I know he appreciated the support.  The landing was uneventful and once the problem was fixed, we were on our way.

Captain Dan recently wrote a letter to our customer Leslee inflight when he learned that she was a nervous flyer on Flight 201 from New York’s JFK

The unity and support demonstrated by our customers and crew for Andy reminded me of the images in the news this past week of strangers who came together to assist others in their time of need.  I saw many demonstrations of that humanity within JetBlue.  When Boston was on lock-down and the city’s transportation came to a halt, crewmembers from a number of our cities flew into Boston to assist our airport crewmembers and take care of our customers.

During the moment of silence this past Monday, our Boston crewmembers stood shoulder to shoulder on the tarmac, heads bowed. At JFK in New York, our Operations team arranged for our Boston Red Sox branded aircraft to be on the ground next to our I love NY aircraft as a show of unity and support between our two largest JetBlue cities; and we allowed travelers to reschedule trips in and out of Boston without penalties or fees.

Whether it’s a pleasantry exchanged at the boarding gate, or a helping hand with placing a suitcase in the overhead bin, we have many moments during our day to make a connection with one another. For me, it can be as simple as extending a hand across the aisle to assure someone that they’re going to be okay – something I also needed to be reminded of this week.

Learn more about Diane, read her previous columns and stay tuned for the next edition!

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