Thanksgiving evening, I commuted back out to San Francisco. When I was originally awarded my November schedule, I thought it was 100% commutable. I did not take into account the severely reduced flight schedule on the Friday after the holiday. Although there were two flights that would have worked, they left at the same time. Choose wisely and hope everything went smoothly? Not me. For my personal sanity, I need a few backups in case things start to fall apart.
I chose to commute on United. When I walked up, one of the captains I’ve flown with was standing at the podium.
“Hey, you again?” he said.
The last time I flew on United, he was also the captain. The time before that, another captain I’d flown several trips with was operating the flight. When I commuted home Monday night, another captain I knew was in command.
That’s the odd situation I find myself in these days. I am doing the same job, but, for a different company. While flying for Virgin America, I still depend on my old company to get me back and forth to work. (Well, not completely… Frontier and Southwest have also been an absolute blessing to me over the last fifteen months!)
Commuting out of Denver, I interact with a large amount of my old co-workers. Can you imagine? Have you ever lost a job and found a new one working around the same people? Sometimes, I completely forget I don’t work for United anymore.
In my humble opinion, I’m in a better place. Although we don’t have a worldwide route structure, our product is simply superior.
In that respect, I have moved-on. But, I still miss some of the people.
My favorite gate agent at United has always been Rufus. If all agents conducted themselves like Rufus, flying would be more enjoyable. I could ramble on and on about how he treats customers. But, I’ll let Denver’s 9News do the work for me. They did a great piece on Rufus a few months back:
Over the years, I’ve had many interactions with him. Whenever he saw me, he always gave me a big hug. He always asked about my family. He was always genuinely happy to see me. I’d then step back and marvel at his natural gift with customers. I loved watching Rufus work a crowd.
A few weeks ago, I boarded the shuttle at DIA to return to my truck. As I tossed my bag up onto the rack, my peripheral vision caught a big smile coming from the back. When I turned my head, I saw Rufus.
He stood and gave me a huge bear hug. The entire ride, we talked about the airline industry and our families. (My parents know Rufus. One day, while they were traveling, Rufus was the gate agent. When he learned their son was a United pilot, he gave them his cellphone number and said to call if they ever needed help looking up flight options. Whenever they travel through Denver, they call to see if he’s at the airport.)
I congratulated him on the 9News story. I told him it was great press for United and asked about the history behind the piece.
“Well, Brian, always be nice to everyone.” he told me. “You never know who you’re being nice to… One day, I had the producer of 9News on one of my flights. I was nice to her so she decided to do a story.”
You know, that’s pretty darn good advice.