There’s an exception to every rule

brandon cooperUnited is far, and away, the worst airline I’ve ever experienced. Since merging with Continental, I’d liken United Airlines to:

– The Comcast of the clouds
– The Miley Cyrus of Mileage Plus
– The A-Rod of the atmosphere.

They’re that bad.

But, for every rule, there’s always an exception. And, the exception to the horror show that is United Airlines is one of their flight attendants: Brandon L. Cooper.

Allow me to explain. Just last week, two traveling companions and this blogger were seated on United flight #4395 from Newark to Indianapolis. Some 30 minutes into the flight, however, my reading was interrupted by the following announcement from the cockpit: “I’m really sorry, ladies and gentlemen. But, our weather radar detector is broken, and there’s some weather ahead, so Newark ATC has gone ahead and asked we return to Newark, land and have it checked out. Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks again for choosing United. We know you have other options.”

Now, allow me to fast forward (a phrase that is entirely alien to United Airlines, BTW). Some three hours later, we re-boarded United flight 4395 and taxied towards the departure runway.

Suddenly, the captain once again interrupted my reading to declare: “I’m really sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but Newark ATC says we’ve lost our departure slot, and now have to wait to be told when we might be able to take off. Plus, there’s weather due west of the airport AND our right engine is running low on fuel. I’ll keep you updated. Oh, and thanks again for choosing United. We know you have other options.”

And, that, my friends, is when Brandon L. Cooper, the sole flight attendant on United Airlines ill-fated flight 4395 from Newark to Indianapolis, went to work.

Brandon made his own announcement to apologize for the numerous delays. He then told us drinks were on him. And, trust me, when Brandon pours, he pours a full drink.

Brandon plied us with as much wine, beer and liquor as we could inhale. And, he went far beyond merely supplying spirits.

Brandon asked me if I lived in Indianapolis. I admitted I’d only been to ‘Indy’, as everyone calls it, only once before. And, quicker than you can say ‘indefinite delay’ Brandon wrote down a list of his favorite neighborhood bars, pubs, eateries and clubs.

When I told him my friends and I were struggling to decipher his hastily-penned hieroglyphics, Brandon took the time and effort to write down all the names and descriptions again! Wait, this is a United flight attendant? What happened to the rude, crude and otherwise boorish behavior I’d grown so accustomed to?

Throughout our six-hour ordeal, Mr. Cooper kept us up-to-date on holding patterns and unexpected turbulence, as well as playing traffic cop on the plane’s sole rest room.

Brandon L. Cooper made United’s skies friendly again for one, brief (ok, not-so-brief), shining moment.

If his management had any sense (which they clearly don’t), they’d promote Mr. Cooper faster than you can say mechanical glitch. They’d also empower him to train all of the arrogant and indifferent captains, co-captains, flight attendants, baggage handlers and gate agents that, collectively, have made United Airlines a miserable user experience.

You rock, Brandon. Now, if only you possessed the political clout within that godforsaken business to shake some sense into senior management. Until you do, you’ll continue to be a lone exception to the rule at United Airlines.

10 thoughts on “There’s an exception to every rule

  1. My thoughts exactly. In fact, I told Brandon I thought I’d been traveling on Southwest Airlines. United is a smile-free airline.

    • If United gives Brandon the bum’s rush, I’m certain you’ll point him towards greener pastures.

  2. Repman – hope you enjoyed Indy. It’s one of only four US state capitals that starts with the same first letter of the state.
    My comment though isn’t trivial. Great job by Brandon and I enjoyed your post. Smart airlines realize that proactively handling mistakes is smart. Jet Blue for example will wheel a cart into the boarding area at the gate with free drinks and snacks. They’ll do trivia and giveaway prizes (even free tickets).
    Unfortunately I don’t think Brandon is going to get promoted or even recognized for going to heroic lengths. To quote Harvard professor Frances Frei, “The (superhero) cape starts to get heavy if its being worn too often.” He’s a rarity at United / Continental. Either he’ll get burned out or go somewhere that values this type of service.
    Oh – and the other states are Delaware, Hawaii and Oklahoma.

  3. Great points, Ray. I actually spoke to Brandon about this exact topic. He told me he’d dealt with countless, similar situations in the past and always found that a delayed plane full of alcohol-sedated passengers is far easier to control than one with sober consumers flipping out about missed connections.

  4. Hi RepMan: I think Brandon played it smart by being so nice. It was his best option considering he was trapped in an enclosed space with potentially disgruntled passengers.

    I also believe he was given permission to dispense free booze. But I question that strategy because it could have added fuel to the fire, if your flight faced further delays.

  5. There’s literally nothing better than a flight attendant (or airport employee) who cares about you. When I was coming home from London a few years ago, the check-in people at Virgin informed me that my bag was overweight, and asked me to buy another suitcase to transfer some of the weight. When I explained that my flight was leaving soon and I was scared I’d miss it, the check-in agent upgraded me to first class to make sure I could go to the front of the security line! Not only did I make my flight, I flew first class for the coach price!

  6. I do hope Brandon is alive and well, and still flying those oh-so-unfriendly skies. If united should fire him, it would only reinforce what I already know: they’re worst in class. Brandon: Here’s a virtual toast to you, and your grace, under pressure.

  7. Great post, Steve. I think the key word here is “empower.” Unfortunately the dinosaurs – United, Time Warner, Bank of America, etc – are failing to keep up with a democratized clientele that are fully aware of their “other options.” A little leeway in customer service goes a long way indeed.