“I’m sorry sir, we are overbooked for this flight…. It looks like you’ll be stuck here until at least tomorrow afternoon.”
The worst words you can hear at your airport gate. For me, it happened in Munich, Germany. I was just leaving from a major letdown in Zcre Beach, Croatia. I was attending the Fresh Island Festival, or shall I say, what was supposed to be the Fresh Island Festival. What I actually attended was artists cancelling shows the day of, forest fires shutting down the venue and no help or refund from organizers. Needless to say, I was ready to get home.
After a 4-hour drive to Zagreb airport, I was on the way back to Virginia.
But first, a stop in Munich to switch planes. That’s when I noticed the line of people sitting on the floor. That’s always the first sign of trouble. The next sign is hearing your name called over the intercom. I was told that this flight was overbooked and that I probably wasn’t going to make this flight. I could wait and see if a few people don’t show, but I’d probably have to wait until tomorrow.
Now this part is very important. Not only to my journey, but to life… Don’t be an asshole! It’s not the gate agent’s, flight attendant’s, pilot’s, nor mechanic’s fault that things didn’t go your way. Yelling at people, threats of where you’ll take your business, cussing up a storm, is only going to make employees not want to help you. There are always things they can do to help, but that’s never going to happen with a bad attitude.
So, I sat on the floor, eating a sandwich, while everyone slowly boarded the plane. After the last call, I went up to the counter again, just to make sure there were no seats. “No, I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to come back tomorrow at the same time……” Again, I kept my cool. After cracking some jokes with the agents, thanking them for all their help, and even helping picking up trash around the gate, I sat down to start making plans for the night. All the sudden I hear those magic words…. “Mr. Stroman… We have found a seat for you!!!”
As I run up to the counter with the biggest smile, the agent tells me that a flight attendant has given up her seat for me. I’m not sure if this was luck, but it seemed more like the gate agents made a few calls and asked a favor on my behalf. The agents reopened the gate (I’ve never seen that) and personally took me through the elevator to the plane. Once there, I was told to stand in the back, near the kitchen area, until everyone was seated.
Back there, it was another fun experience. The FA’s couldn’t believe the gate agents let me do this. I’m sitting on a jump seat, reserved for staff only, talking with three lovely ladies about procedures. None of them wanted to give up their seat, but they kept smiles on their faces, while doing their jobs and keeping me company. Feeling bad, I even offered to help out a little. Told them I’d make the coffee while they relaxed. I believe the reply was “No please don’t” lol. She may have been correct.
It was about 20-25 mins of sitting at the gate, when one of the attendants tells me that a seat just opened up for me. Sadly, a couple got sick while sitting on the plane. And instead of one of the FAs moving a seat, they’ll just give me the couple’s seats. Row 1A, first class, lay-flat chair, and nobody else in the next seat. While I took time to pray for the couple and their health, I also thanked the staff for everything they had done for me. I’m sure that policy would say, stick another customer of “higher value” into that seat…. Once again, Lufthansa crew went above and beyond to help me on this flight.
First class!!! Let me tell you!! It’s well worth the money. It wasn’t just the great service you get up there, it was all the little things. As I said before, if all else fails, you’re paying for a nice bed on a long flight. But that’s not even close to everything you get up there. Everything from the headphones to the comforter (not sheet), the food… Oh the food. Hard plates, silverware, actual condiments in jars. The food looked like it came from a restaurant kitchen and not a Lonely Man Microwave Dinner. After about 3 glasses of wine, a snack and a 3-course meal, I was ready to test out the mattress on this thing…
That’s when everything came back around. As the FA explained to me, another couple in first class wanted to get their baby to sleep. It was a lap child, meaning no ticket was bought, as long as they stayed in the lap of their parents. Well since there was now an empty seat, they asked me if I would be willing to slide over and let the father get some sleep in his own bed/chair. I could have said no. Acted like it would be a disturbance to me somehow. Act like I deserved this seat when I could be at a cheap airport hotel, praying for an early flight tomorrow. But without any hesitation, I said it’s no problem, looked over and waved for him to come over, and after a good sleep, we had a quick breakfast together. My crew from economy even came up to check on me and laugh it up some more.
That just goes to show you, how you conduct yourself, is directly related to how you are treated. Had I gone another way, and berated people, I don’t think I make it on that plane. Had I acted impatient or upset with spending 20 minutes in the kitchen, I’d be crammed into the worst seat on the plane. After it was all said and done and I was in first class, I could have then stood my ground and filled up two seats. There was no promise or hope of additional favors. There was no promise at any time during this process.
There is just being a good person and good people helping those in need. I’d like to formally thank Lufthansa, the entire Lufthansa crew from the ticket counter to the gate to everyone on board to the same folks at my landing destination. You made a chaotic trip into one of the best I’ve ever had. See you in the skies!!!