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Happy landing

Happy landing
Photo credit Yorke Photography

Atlantic Business Magazine reader shares a rare feel-good story about air travel customer service

Adam Conter’s story starts as too many air travel misadventures do these days: as a horror story. A hazardous road trip with an infant on board. Relief at making it to the airport on time. The confusion of a mysterious documentation error. The heartbreak of a last minute flight cancellation.

To this point, Adam’s story follows a disappointingly familiar script. Then, something miraculous happened. One person cared enough to step outside the bounds of their regular job to make things right. That person is Paul Stewart, and this – in Adam Conter’s own words – is what happened:

When April 10th throws you a horrible winter storm and you, your wife and nine-month-old baby still make it to the airport for your pre-dawn flight, that should be the worst thing you encounter that day. This past weekend my wife and infant son were scheduled to fly to Fort Lauderdale at the un-godly hour of 6:15 AM. After our 3:00 AM wake up and the blinding snow storm, we make it to departures to find out that there was an error with the registration and that the ticket for our infant son wasn’t correct. Assured by the gate agent that they would take care of it with ticketing, we were asked to wait 15 minutes. I offered that we would simply buy a ticket for our son and we could sort it out the issue later. Assured that wouldn’t likely be the case, we waited. Updated 25 minutes later that no resolution was found, I offered again and was asked to give them 10 more minutes. Finally we are told there was no resolution and now, on my third offer to purchase a ticket, I’m told the flight is closed and they cannot sell me a ticket. This is where the story would normally be a rant about the airline and one you’ve heard before. Instead I don’t care to highlight the airline or rant. I’m writing this letter to draw attention to an individual who stepped up and went far beyond anything expected. This story is a public suggestion that if you value customer service, showing clients that they matter, no matter your industry you should be calling Paul Stewart.

Paul is one of the men who work in the baggage claim room at Stanfield International. Paul is the guy who likely takes the brunt of all of your pent-up fatigue and anger. Paul is a superhero.

At 5:40 AM as I sat beside my tired wife and nine-month-old baby, Paul was preparing for the start of his shift at 6:00 AM. We knocked on the office door and asked Paul where we would expect our bags as they were removed from the designated flight. He pointed to carousel number one. I thanked him and sank into my chair.

Paul recognized that something wasn’t right. Not many young families drive through a storm on a Sunday before dawn to sit alone in the baggage claim area to sulk. He asked: “What’s up?”

We explained what had happened as constructively as we could. Sarcasm, yes; anger, no. Paul asked to see our boarding pass and asked if we would let him try to help. Paul left and asked if we’d care for a coffee as he could grab us one on his way back from trotting down to ticketing. As Paul was away, the gate agent from earlier informed us that finally our ticketing issue was resolved. Appreciated the update — significantly too late for me to be happy.
My wife and I chose to slowly walk to ticketing and catch Paul on the way. As we turned to walk the hall, we could see Paul in the distance running towards us.

“Turn around.”

“Ok, Paul.”

“Get in the elevator.”

“Ok, Paul.”

“I think I can get you to Florida.”

“This should be interesting, Paul.”

We turned, went back to the gate to watch Paul give instructions to the gate agent now that our issue was resolved.

He outlined how to re-tag our bags and sorted new boarding passes. The gate agent, to her credit seems excited to see that something might be possible.

Paul grabbed our bags, jogged them to the security area and instructed my wife to follow with our baby.

Bags were screened and our oversized bag (stroller) needed to be taken manually to the gate as we were now so late. There went Paul, tearing off through customs stroller in tow.

I waited, alone, at the front of security not passing the “passengers only line.” Fifteen minutes pass and my wife texts to let me know that she and our son are comfortably on board. Five more minutes pass and I meet Paul back down at the bag office where he informs me all bags made the flight as well.

The past two hours of disappointment, disbelief and frustration vanish and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and awe.

One person, working in what can only be one of the more challenging areas of an airport, started work before his shift to help someone. He did it with a smile. He did it with compassion and most striking, he did it with the conviction that it was simply the right thing to do.

His name is Paul Stewart. You can find him at the Baggage Claim desk at Stanfield Airport. If you are Air Canada, you should be promoting him, if you are anyone else, you should be offering him a job.

With gratitude,
Adam, Ariela and Baby Reuben Conter

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