Thursday, November 26, 2009
How Sun Country Airlines Saved Thanksgiving
Dear Sun Country Airlines,
It has been many years since my husband and I last flew your airline. We left Minnesota nearly a decade ago, but this year we decided to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. My husband made all of the travel arrangements for this trip, and flying Sun Country was both cheapest and the best itinerary for us. We were booked to fly out of San Francisco on the red-eye to Minneapolis on November 23... or so we thought.
After scurrying through the airport from one terminal to the next (the airport signage is all wrong), we arrived at a nearly-empty ticket counter. The young woman behind the counter took our IDs and then searched and searched for our reservation. She called someone else over... and then another person. They checked the passenger manifest. And then finally a gentleman made a phone call.
In the meantime my husband and I were starting to worry. We pulled up our reservation on Orbitz just as the gentleman hung up the phone and came back to us.
“We can’t find your seats on this flight because you were actually booked to fly out last night.”
My husband and I both protested... there’s no way we would have booked a flight out on Saturday night. I had to work all day Sunday.
And then I looked down at the Orbitz confirmation. Your gate agent was right. There it was: Flight XYZ at 12:15 am Sunday, November 22. My stomach sank. My husband paled. We looked at the gate agent with what must have been blank desperation. The gate agent turned away, and my travel brain was clicking into overdrive...
“They’ll probably give us a credit for the tickets, minus a fee. Then we will have to pay a change fee plus the fare difference. And buying a ticket THIS week and THIS late in the game...”
I was seeing dollar signs like cartoon stars in front of my eyes. My husband was clearly doing the same calculations, and disappointed resignation read in his eyes. We would just have to stay home.
“What kind of seats would you like?” The gate agent looked back at us, and we started in confusion. “This happens. You have to be careful when booking a red-eye. Where would you like to sit on tonight’s flight?”
And with that, Sun Country Airlines -- and the kind gate agents at SFO -- saved Thanksgiving!
We weren’t given a credit. We didn’t have to pay a change fee or a fare difference. In an age when some airlines are only half-joking as they consider charging passengers to use the lavatory, Sun Country had an opportunity to charge us an arm and a leg for our own mistake and did not. You had empty seats on a plane, and your gate agent booked us on the flight and sent us on our way. So, I write you from the Nickerson Family Thanksgiving where four generations have gathered for conversation laced with laughter, a few tears, and turkey with all the trimmings.
Perhaps the story would have been different if seats had been at a premium on that flight. And your gate agent didn’t know that I’m a travel writer. I’d say your company suffers from a case of Minnesota Nice -- and, frankly, good business sense. You have won two loyal customers with family in Minnesota who will be happy to fly Sun Country Airlines again.
From our family to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!
Angela K. Nickerson
PS: You are more than welcome to join us for a slice of Pumpkin Pie! I baked plenty!
Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers!
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