Being Nice Has Its Benefits

This morning I had a flight out from JFK back to SFO. I go online to attempt check-in and find that I can’t; something about the itinerary being unavailable. I think nothing of it as I know I can check in at the airport at a kiosk. I get my things together and hop into a taxi and head to JFK.
When I get there, I check-in at the kiosk and….FIND OUT THEY PUT ME ON ANOTHER LATER FLIGHT. My first reaction was of anger; previously I was on a 900a flight which would get me in around noon. That would give me enough time to go home, get my car, and zip back up to San Francisco for a 300p meeting. But the later flight they put me on would have screwed me! I would have gotten in at 230p and there would be no way that I could make the meeting. I was furious! I looked on the boards and the 900a flight was still there!
I rushed through security and was determined to get this resolved! Watch out for pissed off consumer on the warpath!
As my emotions seethed inside me, I thought back to resolutions I’ve had about my personality. One of them was that I would always remain calm and courteous even in the face of extreme emotion or anger. I’ve always admired people who were so calm in the face of calamity and decided it was something I wanted to be. Besides, if that didn’t work, there would always be time for shouting (ha).
I got up into the Admirals Lounge where they typically can be more helpful. I said, “I need help! I got rescheduled off my 900a flight into a later flight? Can I get back on that flight?” To which the agent replied, “Oh, the 900a flight got cancelled.” It was still on the boards! What gives?
I asked nicely to get on the 700a flight, which was boarding in 20 minutes. Luckily for me, I like to get to the airport early and relax in the Admiral’s Club with WIFI, a cup of coffee, and someone else’s New York Times which I often find lying around there. This time, it enabled me to have a chance at getting on the earlier flight!
The agent said the flight was not full, but they had closed access to her computer because they were in final boarding. She told me to run down there and see what they could do. So I turned around and ran to the gate.
I got to the agents there and asked nicely with a very calm voice if I could get on the flight. This agent said no problem. Then I asked if I could invoke my complimentary upgrade due to my Executive Platinum status. She tells me I can, but I would have to use my 500 mile upgrade vouchers (you earn these when you fly, and you use however many equal to your flight distance to upgrade to Business class). I tell her I don’t want to use my 500 mile upgrade vouchers and she proceeds to book me into a Economy class seat. As she’s doing this, I think, “this is wrong. I am Executive Platinum. I should be able to upgrade without using my 500 mile upgrade vouchers.” A few seconds later, I persist, but still asking in a very calm nice voice. I ask her if there are Business Class seats available and if I can get a complimentary upgrade as Executive Platinum. She tells me it’s not possible without using my 500 mile upgrade vouchers. I pause there, but I refuse to give up since I know I’m right and I refuse to rise to the bait of getting mad and yelling my request.
So I say “I’m sorry, could you explain to me again why I can’t get a complimentary upgrade with my Executive Platinum status? I’ve done it before many times.”
She grabs the agent next to her and she recommends calling their manager. The manager comes onto the phone and they chat. He asks if they have seats available and she says yes. Then the kicker; he asks her if I’m a nice guy and she tells him I’ve very nice and not bothersome at all. He then tells her to go ahead.
By this time, there is 5 minutes until they close the doors, so she just tells me which seat I have and I walk on the plane. Still on the jetway, I’m trying to tell her that Executive Platinum status gives me complimentary upgrades when Business class seats are available. She still claims this is not the case. I give up – I have my Business Class seat and don’t worry about it anymore.
As I sit here on the plane typing this post in my comfy Business class seat, about to get my trans-fat omelette and somewhat bad coffee, I reflect on the fact that being calm and courteous in the face of anger can really work. It’s just more reinforcement for me that flying-off-the-handle behavior really isn’t called for in most cases, and that connecting nicely as human beings can get you huge results a lot faster than being a total asshole.