This past week I had the opportunity to spend a few days in NYC at PRSA’s Digital Impact. I loved my time there and learned a lot. This isn’t a post about that conference. It’s a post about the flight home.
I was taking a 7pm flight home to Atlanta from LGA and planned on getting home before my wife and dog went to sleep. After a few delays I threw away that idea and just wanted to get home. Delays just kept coming and coming and my arrival time kept getting later. Many of the flights out of our terminal were getting cancelled so I was just happy to still have an active flight, no matter how late. Once our plane was in the air and on the way to us in NYC, the desk attendant came on the PA.
Apparently the FAA has a curfew. I did not know this.
She announced that we had to be in the plane, seated, strapped into our seatbelts, plane door closed and pushing away from the gate at 1:50am – if we didn’t hit it by that time the FAA would make them cancel the flight home. They asked everyone with a rolling bag to check the bags at the gate to avoid the “my bag doesn’t fit/there’s no more room do I really have to check my bag?” song and dance almost any boarding process sees. Fortunately, most of the people on our flight went along with it. We just wanted to go home.
The plane arrived around 1am but there was a snag – a mechanical issue. Fortunately it was just a battery thing they had to deal with but it still delayed our boarding process. It was 1:33am and the boarding process still hadn’t happened. Then they opened up the gates. There were no zone calls. No “Delta Priority” lines. They just said “everyone, get on – now!”
Keep in mind this wasn’t a small plane. We all jumped in. I had just gotten on the plane when they said “four minutes left!” People just found a seat and sat down, regardless if it was on their ticket. The ticket agents were sprinting up and down the aisle to hand-check standby passengers. They sprinted off, the baggage guys ran out of the plane and the attendants shut the door as fast as I’ve ever seen it done. I glanced at my phone and watched it click to 1:50. I wasn’t sure if we’d made it. The captain announced overhead
“Flight attendants, prepare the cabin for takeoff.”
The whole plane erupted in applause and cheers. We did it. By the skin of our teeth, we made it.
It made me realize, when people put their selfishness aside and look out for the good of the whole group, things move a lot smoother. Everyone realized at that moment that their actions and decisions in those 15 minutes affected more than just themselves. We were able to board a massive plane in less than 15 minutes because we had a huge group of very goal-oriented people. Nobody wanted to spend the night in the airport.
Also, a huge kudos to the Delta crew. They didn’t let their normal processes and procedures stand in the way. They did everything they absolutely had to get us home that night. I was impressed. The crew didn’t mess around and kept us in the loop every step of the way. I may have not gotten to my apartment until after 5am – but I got home (and safely)!
Isn’t it amazing what people can accomplish when they all work together?