It Could Have Been Worse!

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Raveena, British Airway’s Customer Service Expert at the Amsterdam airport

On Sunday morning when we were scheduled to fly from Amsterdam through Philadelphia to Raleigh, arriving home a little after 5pm the same day, Mike was awakened at 4am by a text from American Airlines with the news that our flight out of Amsterdam was delayed; a couple of hours later it was cancelled! Several phone calls to American gave us no good options, some options worse than others. There were no options at all on any airline out of Amsterdam that would get us both home on Sunday. One option (the worst) would get us home three days later after flying through LA.! What seemed the best option would have Mike and me flying separately on different airlines. We put the best of our options on hold to protect us with a flight, then headed to the airport to see if other options became available once all of the rebookings of the Philadelphia flight settled out.

Once at the Amsterdam airport, we saw that the line at the American Airlines counter was a mile long, with all of the people in line waiting to rebook their cancelled flights. It became obvious that waiting in that line would result in Mike missing the flight he had put on hold because it was scheduled to depart before we would even get to the ticket counter! Plus, we did not want to fly on separate airlines if there was any other option. While Mike and I waited in the long line, I called American Airlines. After a long wait, an agent finally came on the line. (During this time, the wait in the physical line for the ticket counter had not improved much at all.) The agent on the line searched for all options. The best option she was able to find was another seat on the flight that I was booked on for Sunday evening, overnighting in London and flying to Raleigh Monday morning. Mike and I agreed that this option made the most sense. Once those flights were confirmed, we left the waiting line and proceeded to check in seven hours early for our evening British Airways flight to London.

At the British Airlines ticket counter, we met a customer service expert, Raveena, who made any inconveniences we had experienced disappear from memory. Raveena was exceptional. She was kind, empathetic, and patient. She made us feel like she had all the time in the world for us, even stating at one point, “It does not matter about my break, take whatever time you need,” this referencing us transferring some items from our checked luggage to our carry-ons. She was helpful in other ways as well, one of which will not be mentioned since it might not be as valued by her employer as her customers! Raveena’s gift of service reminded me that even in difficult situations we can find moments of light. May my light shine as bright as Raveena’s.

It would be a long day in the Amsterdam airport, and we needed to book a hotel in London for the night, which we did. We did not need to worry about food, for we knew we could spend the day in the airport lounge and be comfortable and well fed. Mike and I both had plenty of work to do to keep us company. It could be worse.  And then, it got worse.

After sitting in the airport for seven hours we boarded our flight to London. And waited. The plane’s baggage bin was stuck, and we could not take off until it was fixed, which would result in (at least) an hour’s delay. The first of two “good finder” thoughts I had was that at least we did not have a flight to connect to in London that night. The other was that it wasn’t mechanical trouble with the plane that would have grounded us, or worse.

img_5882.jpgAt times like this, during life’s disruptions, travel or otherwise, I am reminded of how little control we humans have. There is always someone or something bigger than us with much more power than we have. American Airlines had more power than we had and was able to cancel our confirmed and paid-for flight and put us on another airline at their will, regardless of our inconvenience or additional cost. In the physical waiting line at the American Airlines counter, there were people with the highest possible status, such as Executive Platinum flyers, which included Mike, and I am sure others, as well as economy flyers with no status. Airline status made no difference. There was no priority line in that situation; all waiting in line were equal, and the best any could do was wait their turn. Unless they knew they had another option, which we did, and had the ability to exercise it, such as a mobile phone, which we had.

This experience reminded me of our Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten travel challenges, which are recorded in several blogs on www.fralixgroup.com, and the soon to be released book, Changing Me from The Inside Out, My Hurricane Irma Experience on St. Maarten and other Life Changing Events, which will be available from Amazon.

Once in the air after an hour’s delay, the flight from Amsterdam to London was uneventful. Since we had checked our luggage all the way through, we quickly made our way through the London Heathrow airport and checked in to the Hilton Airport Hotel without delay.

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Life is also what we make of it!

Monday morning, we arrived at the airport and went to the American Airlines Lounge and had a light breakfast. Our flight from London to Raleigh departed on time, and we were back in Raleigh about eight and a half hours later.

I had several lessons from this experience, all related to self-sufficiency.

My first lesson was, be self-sufficient in all ways, even when traveling with your spouse. Have your own credit card with spending ability, money in the country you are travelling in’s currency, and your own power devices. I had my own credit card with spending ability and cash in euros. I did not have my own power plug adapter and would have needed to purchase one if Mike and I had been on separate airlines. Also, keep your devices fully charged. And, even if you do not plan to need or use your mobile phone in a foreign country, be prepared with a phone travel pass in the rare event that you do need to use your phone and do not want to go broke in the process! Knowing I had a travel pass for phone and data with a $10/day cost regardless of usage made the long phone call to American Airlines inexpensive.

Keep up with your own travel documents. At one point when Mike and I were booked on separate airlines, I realized that he had my travel documents, and how easy it would have been to forget, and have my documents fly with him on another flight!

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I vow to pack lighter on trips!

When travelling, carry-on only what you can handle. Regarding checked luggage, only take what you yourself can manage, including what you can get up and down steps and on and off trains.  Now, this one is hard for me. On this trip, I had two carry-ons, a tote bag, and my purse. I had two checked bags.  I had another tote bag that Mike was carrying for me since he had only one carry-on.  Had we been separated on different flights, this would have been more complicated.  It would have been even more difficult if I had to manage steps and trains. This reminded me of our Hurricane Irma experience in St. Maarten last year when one of the evacuation options required one travel with only one piece of luggage and be able to hold that on your lap! We elected another evacuation option, although not for that reason. Still, travelling light makes everything less complicated.

 

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Uhm, I just had a thought. Is it possible that the purpose of this travel disruption experience was that I would learn the lessons I needed to learn?   

Patti name

 

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The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World

img_5991.jpgMike and I have been in Maastricht, the Netherlands, for the past week at the 34th annual International Apparel Federation’s World Fashion Convention. We have been to Maastricht once before, ten years ago, for the same meeting. I loved Maastricht then and was excited to come back this year. As much as I loved Maastricht before, it was even more wonderful this time. So much so, that Maastricht has replaced London as my favorite city in the world!

There is so much to share with my readers about this wonderful city, that I plan to write several blogs about it over the next few months. So, where to start? I think it best to start with the people.

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The bookshop, looking down from the second floor. The table in the shape of the cross is clearly visible. 

The people of Maastricht are friendly, kind, and gracious. As for friendly, they are not “bubbly,” which many people in the southern United States can be. They are genuine. (I am not saying that the people of the U.S. are not genuine, even though they can be “bubbly.”) The friendliness of the people of Maastricht comes through in their responsiveness, their kind facial expression, and their helpfulness. I did lots of shopping in Maastricht, (not as much buying!) and I experienced this many times. The staff in the stores were not distracted, and they were not on their cell phones; they were engaged with customers.

I remember the first time I travelled to Europe many years ago. I was struck then by one significant difference in the people to those in the U.S. The Europeans were in much better physical shape. That difference was even more obvious on this trip. While we Americans are getting larger and unhealthier (me too!) the Europeans I saw on this trip do not seem to have this problem. One significant reason for this difference is the mobility of the Europeans and the overall more sedentary lifestyle of many Americans. Of course, this is not unilaterally true. There are some states in the U.S where the lifestyle is more outdoors and athletic, such as Colorado.  Most people of all ages that I saw in Maastricht were on bicycles or walking. Bicycles were much more prevalent than automobiles.

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The bicycles may outnumber the people!

A great example of Maastricht was experienced in the Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World, the boekhandel dominicanen. This designation was awarded the bookshop by the Guardian newspaper. This is a bookshop in a former church. While the structure is exquisite, the entire experience in the bookshop was beyond expectation. The book offerings were extensive, including those that were of the English Language.  I took several pictures of book titles, planning to order them through Amazon once back in the U.S.; I did not want to carry them home. (I did feel guilty about this since I would rather support an independent bookstore, but the ease of ordering through Amazon won out!)

 

One of the nicest touches of the bookshop was the free gift wrapping, which was offered at every transaction.

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Coffee shops everywhere!

Then there was the coffee shop area in the bookshop. This was a lovely respite, with excellent coffee. There was a table in the shape of a cross, lest we forget the original meaning of this structure.  Powerful.

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One more photo of the bookstore!

Our time in Maastricht was a wonderful experience. This is just the beginning of the story.

Patti name

 

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Don’t Waste My Time!

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My wise friend Judy and me on a (too rare) excursion.

My bestie for the last fifty years, Judy, has had a saying for many years that I love: “Waste my money, waste my food, but don’t waste my time.” We all know that time is money, and none of us have enough of it. We cannot afford to waste it.

 

IMG_5481I am up early this AM because I could not sleep, and I have again, experienced the “waste my time.” I decided to make a couple of phone calls to check on a few things when I had time this AM that I did not plan to have. One of those was to my bank, and one was to a merchant. I should have done laundry instead, for I wasted my time. Continue reading

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To Tell or Not to Tell?

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Sometimes patience is required when dealing with customers!

I am and have always been, passionate about customer service. Even before I started speaking and consulting about the subject, I have been militant about it. Business is too difficult for us to accept poor service. I believe we owe it to companies we care about to give them accurate feedback on all aspects of the service we experience with them. Granted, this is easier when we can give positive feedback. It is much more difficult when we think we should give the feedback, and it is negative. So, is there a way to give negative feedback that is more likely to be heard, and acted upon? I am not sure, but I have found some principles to work for me.  Continue reading

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What Really Matters

Many people in NC and SC have suffered through the effects of Hurricane Florence in the last week. While I am writing this, there are some who are still being evacuated even now due to rivers cresting. For some, it will be a long time, if ever, before their lives will return to normal. At times like this, it behooves us to remember what is really important in our lives, what really matters. As I think about this, I am convinced that there are three things that are most important, and these “things” are not tangible items that can be lost in a hurricane. Other things could be mentioned, but these three are most important. Two of these are related to the connection between oneself and others, and the third is more individual in nature and relates to connection with oneself. Continue reading

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Waiting on Hurricane Florence

As I write this, many people up and down the U.S. East Coast are preparing for and waiting for the largest hurricane that has occurred in many years, Hurricane Florence. Florence is about twenty-four hours away from making landfall, and it is assumed that landfall will occur at Wilmington, NC. Many other areas will be also be affected. Mandatory evacuations are already in place in several NC and SC areas. Our primary home area, Raleigh, NC, is expected to have much rain and wind, and likely significant damage and power outages as a result of those. Our beach property is too close to the hurricane’s expected landfall for us to avoid significant damage there. So, we like many others are on edge, not knowing what the outcome of this weather disruption will be. Continue reading

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St. Maarten/St. Martin Post Hurricane Irma

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A rebuilt restaurant on Orient Beach 

Mike and I are in St. Maarten/St. Martin this week, one year after Hurricane Irma devastated the island. We were here when Hurricane Irma came through and wanted to come back and see the island while it is recovering. I also wanted to finish the last section of the book on the hurricane experience and lessons learned and seeing the island at this stage is a part of that. Continue reading

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