5 Airlines that Still Have a Heart

Airlines today (like every other business) are all about the automation.

Airports are littered with self-serve kiosks, carriers offer help via robotic “Jenn” and “Alex” and purchasing a ticket no longer takes place during a conversation with a real human being; the process has been reduced to clicks on a site. All to the good, many say, since it makes life quicker and often more convenient.

Yet from time to time we still crave a little human contact – the personal touch. I’m happy to say it hasn’t disappeared entirely.

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5 Airlines that Still Offer the Personal Touch

This is by no means an all inclusive list – plenty of other airlines do nice things day in and day out so consider the following just a few examples.

1. JetBlue

In the aftermath of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, JetBlue – which has a sizeable presence in the city – waived change fees for Logan travelers as did most other airlines but they also waived all bag fees and served free coffee and donuts throughout the terminal. The airline put its support for the city front and center on its website too, along with a matching offer for donations to bombing victims’ families. The CEO came out too, a visible corporate symbol of caring. As it says on the JetBlue site, the airline thinks “humanity” is important and they demonstrated that this week.

2. Delta

Last month a little boy left a shirt on a Delta flight to San Diego, but it wasn’t just any shirt – it was what his dad was wearing  when he died in a freak accident two years ago. Ever since, the seven year old has clung to the shirt as a final reminder of the father he lost. When Delta heard of the loss, employees cried then pulled themselves together to pull out all the stops: pilots searched planes, gate agents dug through trash, crews went dumpster diving – and they found it. That’s above and beyond.

3. American

If you’re on an international flight and your plane was delayed and you’re worried about making a tight connection, just look for a purple vest. That’s what American’s Global Support Center employees will be wearing as they swing into action, real-live humans who will escort you to customs/immigration and fast-track you into quicker lines via orange ‘Express Connection’ cards. “What really resonates with our customers,” an American spokesman told me, “is being met proactively by a human being.” There it is again, the human touch.

4. Virgin America

Someone once called this airline a party on plane and they do have a great sense of humor and a great connection with their passengers. Just recently the inflight crew on a Vegas flight learned a couple of passengers were heading there to renew their vows and figured, why wait? Cue the spontaneous mid-air ceremony complete with free drinks for all. Nice job, Virgin.

5. Southwest

Who doesn’t have a Southwest story? Whether it’s the rapping flight attendant who sings the pre-flight safety stuff or the cabin crew that gets everyone to play a rousing game of “Who’s Got the Ugliest Driver’s License Photo”, they seem to revel in their humanity.

Final thought: None of these airlines is perfect, of course. I could probably dig up plenty of passenger horror stories for each one, but – once in a while, it’s nice to remember while they can make mistakes, they also have a heart.

More from Rick Seaney:

Yes, Some Airlines Still Offer a Little “Humanity”


Published: April 19, 2013