Last night I had to fly from Washington Dulles to Ottawa. I had booked on a late flight (9:20pm) but got to the airport early enough to try standby on a 4:50pm flight.
Which was canceled. Air Canada had some computer issues that kept all of their planes on the ground - for hours. I called United (my ticket of origin) and they said "your flights on are time". I said what time was it supposed to take off? They replied - 4:50pm, showing on time. I asked - what time is it now? 5:53pm, and your flight is showing on time.... Oh - I see your concern now.
Apparently - the computer glitch affected not only the ability to fly but also the ability to provide any sort of information. The people behind the counter - no idea what was going on (not their fault, just a fact). The people running the reservation systems - no ideas. And there were no other flights possible.
And then - it "fixed itself" at 6pm. We were able to fly - but...
There were two people working the gate and the decision had been made by Air Canada to cancel the 4:50pm, but to fly the 12:05pm flight (there were people there waiting for almost 8 hours by now). Anyone with a ticket for the 12:05pm flight could board and go - everyone else was supposed to go to the check in counter (on the other side of security) for assistance. The 9:20 flight - it was in limbo, no information. One of the people operating the counter was adamant that no one could get on this flight, they had to leave now.
That was what the louder of the two people said - the other person said "pssst - hang back, I'm going to fill this plane, no way it is leaving half empty". And he started to work. The plane sat 52 people and had 24 empty seats and there was 22 of us gathered around. The other person working the gate was really annoyed at this (vocally) but gave up trying to get him to stop after a while. Every "you cannot do this because..." reason she brought up he countered with "we will solve that by doing this...". It was great to watch, like a tennis match (and you knew whose side we were all on).
After collecting the boarding passes - he booked us all on at record speed, got everyone's luggage transferred over (and the luggage actually made it) and filled the plane.
He didn't have to. He just did it. He did it without complaining, he did it without attitude, he did it to get us on our way as quickly as possible. I really appreciated that - especially since my original flight did not take off until 10:45pm and didn't arrive until after midnight.
United sends me drink coupons, free red carpet club invites, upgrade certificates and such at the beginning of the year. Included in that packet is a bunch of "tell us about something" forms where you are supposed to write up the good deed of someone that works for United. I wondered in the past if I would actually use one.
I will be using one this weekend, for a gate agent at Washington Dulles.