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July 10, 2004

Northwest Airlines ROCKS!

As I write this, I am on Northwest flight 1637 climbing through 23,000 feet to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. In a little less than 3 hours, I will land in Bozeman, Montana which is just an hour's drive from Big Sky Montana, my final destination.

It is a miracle that I am on this flight and it was made possible by several Northwest Airlines employees who did all they could to make sure I made a vital late-day connecting flight.

My travel day started in Cincinnati, Ohio on Northwest Airlines flight 226. As I sat at the gate, I was convinced I was at the wrong place. My boarding pass said gate A 11 and those same symbols were painted on the sign over my head, but there were only 10 or 15 other people sitting around. There was no plane outside the windows nor were any employees manning the gate. Finally a plane arrived and the activity picked up. Johnny Smith, the head gate agent, struck up a conversation with me and told me he liked the advice I had given a woman about her concrete block project. That puzzled me for just a second and then I realized he had listened to the end of my radio show this morning. I am convinced Johnny's great attitude was the spark that ignited the rest of my good luck over the next 2 hours.

The weather was starting to build as we boarded the aircraft. When I looked down the length of the aisle, it looked like a ghost town. Just a handful of us were taking this originating flight from Cincinnati to the primary Northwest hub in Detroit. It was a weekend flight, but my amazement was confirmed by Ms. Tonya Love, one of the two Northwest attendants working the flight. "I haven't seen a flight this empty since Spetember 11th," she said. Just as we pushed back from the gate, the heavens opened up. We traveled a total of five feet and the aircraft stopped. The airport was totally shut down as a tremendous thunderstorm overtook us like a runaway freight train.

Tonya and her partner Ms. Pamela Moore gravitated towards me during the weather delay and we struck up a conversation. Soon they discovered I knew a thing or two about fixing up homes and we spent the next 40 minutes listening to buckets of rain bounce off the fuselage while talking about how Pamela was going to strip some paint from some ceramic tile and Tonya was going to possibly install a new tub surround.

Their company was so enjoyable I forgot how close my connecting flight was spaced. If this flight 226 was ontime, I would only have 15 minutes to get to the next gate when boarding would begin for flight 1637. Once the storm passed and we were cleared to taxi, all three of us realized that the plane I was on would land just minutes before my other plane to Bozeman would take off. To add even more misery, Tonya told me my connecting flight was at the other end of Terminal A in Detroit. That terminal is so long, they have a special electric tram that you ride, unless you are an Olympic spinter.

As the pilot raced towards Detroit, Tonya asked me for my flight number to Bozeman. She talked with the pilot and he radioed ahead trying to solve the dillemma all of us on board faced who had tight connecting flights.

The moment we landed, the cockpit door opened and the co-pilot said, "Are you the Bozeman flight?" I said, "Yes sir." His response was authoritative yet calming. "Go as quickly as you can to the Express Tram loading area. It will deliver you to the exact gate for your flight. Don't waste a moment of time," he said.

Fortunately the terminal in Detroit was not crowded and I made it to my connecting flight. All of the other passengers had loaded and the door was closed. My heart sank but the gate agent looked up and said, "Mr. Carter, we had to give your seat away because you are late." I didn't know what to say. While typing diligently at her keyboard she filled the vacuum by saying, "Hold on just a moment." I could see that my plane had not yet left and wondered what would be the outcome. A minute later this wonderful woman looked up, handed me a new boarding pass, grinned and spoke the magic words, "Glad you could join us. Wait just a moment and I will open the door."

I fly on many different airlines sometimes more than I desire. I have never been treated rudely by any airline employee. But I must tell you I am convinced that the Northwest Airlines employees who took me under their wings today so I could travel 2,000 miles and not be delayed were indeed a cut above the rest. I only wish I had the time to get everyone's name who helped me make this flight.

Moments ago I just finshed a tasty pastrami sandwich on marbled rye bread served to me by a personable flight attendant named Vince. The cheesecake dessert was as moist as the dew-drenched grass that cradles my morning newspaper. Vince's advice about the red wine was also on target.

Just before touchdown I had a short, but wonderful conversation with another flight attendant named Melody. She grew up in Montana and you could tell she was excited about being in Bozeman. I don't think it is possible to have had better flights with a better bunch of professionals who care. Northwest Airlines, you are simply the best!

Posted by Tim Carter at 8:15 PM

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