The boss in the jump seat

We don’t cover the airline-formerly-known-as-Northwest much anymore, not since it got gobbled up by Delta and became the airline from Atlanta. Which is a shame because the airline from Atlanta is pretty much run by the former execs of the airline-formerly-known-as-Northwest. And, of course, it still provides plenty of jobs in flyover country.

But this “open letter” on Facebook caught our attention for a couple of reasons. One, it’s about one of those former execs at the airline-formerly-known-as-Northwest and, two, because any time you get something special from the corporate corner office, that’s news.

Here’s Jessie Frank’s story, which she posted on Facebook

An open letter to Delta CEO Richard Anderson:

Thursday was one of my more harrowing flying days. Due to weather, there were multiple delays, cancellations, re-routings and even a mechanical failure. A 2 hour flight turned into an entire day. By 9:30pm, I was just halfway home, waiting standby in DC hoping to make it out before the 10pm curfew.

During it all, I had contact with at least a dozen Delta employees – by phone, at the counter, at the gate, in the SkyClub… Without exception, they were all calm, kind, diligent, funny… and really went out of their way to try to help me. All this, while at the same time facing a firestorm of angry passengers because there had been so many disrupted flights.

I was 8th on the standby list, showing 0 seats left. I was about to give up, but the counter agent stopped me from leaving. He called 7 names… and then, finally, I was the last to be called. As we rushed down the jetway, the flight attendant at the plane shook her head – not a good sign – but then paused, talked to someone, and waved us down anyway. A vaguely familiar face met me at the doorway, not in uniform so probably an off-duty pilot I had seen before. He quickly grabbed my roll-aboard, helped clear a space in the overhead, and showed me to my seat.

It was important for me to get home – not important enough to tell anyone – but Friday I was to pick up my Type 1 Diabetic 12 year old from her diabetes summer camp. I’m sure she would have been fine if someone else had shown up in my place, but it’s a special moment for me. Camp Kudzu gives my daughter 5 days a year when she feels “normal.” Pick-up day gives me a glimpse into that special world where she’s just like everyone else, and she’s a little bit of a different person for the rest of the day. By the next day, it’s back to the harsh realities of managing a difficult, deadly, incurable disease that kills 1 in 20 before the age of 18. Most people just don’t understand how different it is from regular diabetes.

As the plane descended into Atlanta, the flight attendant announced that there was a special guest on board. He was riding in a jump seat, because he had given up his place to allow one more person on that flight. That special guest was you: Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta.

Suddenly I realized that “familiar face” was not an off-duty pilot. It was you, the CEO of Delta, vaguely familiar from the safety video. It was you, Richard Anderson, who gave up your seat for me. It was you, the Delta CEO, who helped me with my bag. It was you, acting just like an ordinary Mr. Anderson, who showed me to my seat.

You, Richard Anderson, the CEO of Delta, did all that for me, just an average, middle-aged, woman with, as far as anyone at Delta knew, no special reason to get home. But more importantly, it was all of your employees that day that did so much helping me to get home – and now I know why. Because Delta is led by you, Richard Anderson, a dedicated and inspiring leader who so clearly demonstrates, at his very core, that he leads by example, and does not set himself above all those who allow this airline to exist.

Thank you, Richard Anderson. As a result of your leadership and the actions of yourself and your employees, I had my special day with my special child. You and your employees gave us both one more day of happiness, and for that, we are both very grateful. I have always been a loyal Delta customer, but Thursday solidified that loyalty for life! To all Delta employees who helped me on Thursday: thank you again.

(h/t: John Porter)