We are sitting in the rest area of the O’Hare airport as I am writing this blog.
The ILC students heading to Cornell have had a very eventful day. Today started out slow as everyone gathered at El Cerrito High School to have our luggage weighed, receive any additional information regarding our trip, take a group photo and, of course, saying goodbye to our families, who we will not see for three weeks. We then boarded our shuttle and set off for the San Francisco Airport. We were making good time so we were treated to a quick breakfast, and then boarded our flight for Chicago, Illinois.
I found the plane ride to be very enjoyable. A favorite movie of mine, “How to Train Your Dragon”, was playing and I was in the good company of my new Cornell peers. I also had the good fortune of being seated next to Wing, whose amazing art work attracted many admirers, including the flight attendants!
While on our flight, I had my first lesson about the hospitality industry from the flight attendants. Before we took off for Chicago, I had asked the stewardess what movie would be playing on the flight today. She responded by stating that she did not know but she would have the pilot announce it. I also asked how much the movie would cost, to which she said, “It’s complimentary.” I was pleasantly surprised, thus the appeal of United Airlines rose in my esteem. But, when the pilot had announced the movie we would be watching, and the screen came to life with pre-feature film commercials, I plugged my earphones into the receptacle and heard nothing. I checked my earphone plug, and checked if all the other channels had sound--they did--and then pressed the customer service button on my handrest, signaling to the stewardess that I had a question. I did not receive any. The movie had not started yet and the screen had just finished playing the commercials but I was missing the beginning of a sitcom that had come on the screen after the commercials. Thus, I sat there for about 15-20 minutes, very confused. Why was there no sound on the channel designated for the movie? Was it because we were still climbing higher through the air to reach our desired climbing altitude (which was my guess)? I do not know.
Looking back as I am writing this blog, I realize that I made a crucial mistake while I was on the plane. I did not ask the stewardess why that had happened. Granted, the fact that I missed listening to a few commercials and the beginning of a sitcom that I had never seen before is very trivial, it did leave me with a strong impression of what the service might be like when I fly United again.
This little episode tied into the book the hotel students had just finished as our pre-assignment, “Four Seasons: the Story of a Business Philosophy.” Above everything else, the author and founder/CEO of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Isadore Sharp, stressed service as a principal aspect of their business philosophy. Four Seasons became one of the best hotel chains in the world, due to their emphasis on supplying their customer’s every need. They were the first hotel in America to have a concierge service, they created Glitch Reports - a review of the previous day's mistakes, a guest-history system - where they computerize their guests' preferences for future reference, began the trend of providing shampoo and soap for their guests, etc. Their emphasis on customer satisfaction has become a theory that many of their competitors have put into practice. Customer satisfaction is a key component of every business. If the customers are not satisfied with the product, the company has very little chance of surviving in the market.
Following our arrival into O’Hare Airport in Chicago, we soon discovered that our flight to Syracuse had been delayed! Not just once, not twice, but too many times, I could not keep up. To kill time, and feed our hungry stomachs, we were treated to a dinner at the Macaroni Grill inside the airport. It was a nice way to relax and enjoy some wonderful food and wonderful company. Thus, at midnight tonight, we are still waiting for our flight.