It’s the words you don’t want to read across your news feed as you are packing to return home from a two-week trip. “Computer Glitch Halts United Flights For Two Hours.”
My family was booked on United, coming back from Costa Rica, connecting through Houston to Seattle.
The computers were only down for 90 minutes, but the ripple effect left thousands of passengers scrambling rebook misconnections. In all, 1600+ flights were affected across the globe. While much is being written about how the outage could have been avoided and what the glitch has cost United, it is the human toll and subsequent lessons-learned that stick with me.
For the vast majority of United would-be passengers that day, the lasting impact of the day would soon become just another in their list of the inconvenience of travel. However, in those moments and crowds, panic, desperation and exhaustion followed for families who were stranded, unable to get answers, making split decisions in a black hole of information. Relegated to choosing the best of the worst options and feeling helpless in a sea of futility. Waiting in line after line. Praying to get a cramped seat on a plane that will finally get them to their destination.
With confusion mounting, weary flight attendants and gate agents struggled to maintain composure with ever frustrated passengers. Some rose to the occasion, remaining compassionate and attempting to comfort and accommodate. Others simply gave up, becoming cold and mechanical, perhaps accepting their inability to help in any meaningful way and shifting into auto-pilot to get through the day.
It was a long and strained day for my family with delays, followed by inconvenient events, followed by more and more and more delays. While my husband and I are pretty seasoned travelers (although this day was in the top 5 worst for both of us), this was the first true travel meltdown my sons had experienced. And, while we have since coached them to erase the recency effect and focus on the amazing trip we had, there are some lessons that can be gleaned from, to quote my son, “the most awful day of my life.”
For my clients, I'm a storyteller, cheerleader, push-you-out-of-your-comfort-zone type of marketing consultant. Hopefully I can inspire you too.