This past weekend I had the opportunity to once again fly with the incredible Captain Denny Flanagan. Flying with him just never gets old. What I enjoy most about being on his flights are the reactions of unsuspecting passengers. The more often I fly with him, the more I start to appreciate the reactions of people.
Let’s face it, air travel continues to hit a new low all around in terms of service. People have really come to expect next to nothing. And that’s why it’s so amazing to see the reactions of passengers when they get on Captain Denny’s flights.
First it’s fun to watch Captain Denny come out to the gate and make an announcement, with his shoulders shrugged and a slight frown on his face as if he’s about to announce a cancellation. Of course the tension in the gate area quickly dissipates as people realize he’s just there to crack a joke.
Next it’s fun to watch as passengers board and are handed a 757 trading card by him, along with “wings” for all the kids. It’s funny, because you’d expect people would immediately smile when they see someone as nice as Captain Denny, but to a certain extent the look on the faces of passengers seems to be somewhere along the lines of “what the heck?” As I said, people have come to expect so little that I genuinely believe most people initially wonder what’s wrong with the guy. But seconds later there are big grins on the faces of every passenger.
Captain Denny also gives all first class passengers business cards with personalized notes on the back. The flight attendants hand those out during the descent, and I observed the reactions of passengers closely this time around. There was once again a common theme. As passengers started to read the business cards they had a puzzled looks on their faces. “Why the heck would the pilot write a note to me?” And once again that emotion quickly changes. As passengers start to put away their business cards (typically stuffing them into their wallets), they seem to smile as they think about what just happened — that someone genuinely cares and went out of their way to thank them for their business.
Then comes the wine “raffle.” A couple of the business cards that Captain Denny hands out during boarding have his signature on them, and those that have those cards win a free bottle of wine. The passengers ring their call buttons and the flight attendants bring them a bottle of wine.
The realization that this is a captain that really cares seem to sink in just as the flight finishes up. As passengers deplane, Captain Denny once again stands at the door to say goodbye to the passengers. I stayed seated and observed the reactions of passengers. One passenger said “I’ve never had a pilot like you,” while another said “wow, you really seem to care.” Another passenger asked if he had any more of those plane trading cards, as her grandchildren would like them, and noted how different Captain Denny was. His reaction to any passenger that thanks him is always the same — “No, thank YOU. Without your business I wouldn’t have a job.”
What he does is so simple, at least in theory. But it has a HUGE impact and leaves a lasting impression on passengers.