As the saying goes, the quickest way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs, but who would have known to take that approach to keep passengers content by ordering a pizza delivery to an airport ramp? Yet that’s exactly what our PIT-based crew did during a recent- IROPs delay and diversion.
On Tuesday, May 4, storms interrupted flights throughout the Southeast, including flight AA 4798 from Key West, Fla. (EYW) to Charlotte, N.C. (CLT). The flight took off from EYW around 2:30 p.m. EST, forty minutes late due to weather, and just as it was approaching the North Carolina border, the pilots had to divert south to Charleston, S.C. (CHS), landing there at around 5 p.m. EST.
“In the grand scheme of things, did these people really care about getting a slice or two of pizza? I doubt it. But the act of kindness behind it…the gesture of showing that as a crew we were concerned about the well-being of our passengers is what made all the difference.”
— Captain Blackann
“By the time we landed in CHS, I was feeling a little hungry, and I knew if I was, our passengers were likely hungry, too,” Captain Jonathan Blackann shared. “I felt a sense of responsibility for the passengers’ well-being and state of mind. When ATC (Air Traffic Control) informed us that Charlotte arrivals were stopped for at least another half hour and there were several planes to depart in front of us, I knew we would be experiencing another lengthy delay.”
With that in mind, he opened Google Maps and saw a Domino’s Pizza was located a few miles away. Coincidentally, at the same time, the flight attendants shared that a passenger had joked about having pizza delivered, and Captain Blackann said it was all the convincing he needed to follow through with his idea.
With a little coordination with Tim, one of the CHS ramp agents, Captain Blackann called in an order of a dozen pizzas from the local Dominos, ensuring they could deliver to the airport’s entrance.
“We had already completed service with the tarmac delay kits, distributing cookies and drinks to the passengers, and while all the passengers were calm and understanding, you could tell they were getting antsy,” Flight Attendant Melissa Ballard explained. “The flight deck called and said they had ordered pizza, but considering we were parked in the middle of the ramp, we thought they were joking!”
Before the flight attendants knew it, though, First Officer John Feuerstein exited the cockpit and deplaned, escorted to the terminal by the ramp agent, returning a few minutes later with cheese and pepperoni pizzas to feed the passengers and crew onboard.
Slowly the word and the aroma of the delivered pizza made it through the plane, and the passengers were buzzing with disbelief. Flight Attendants Melissa and Janeen Lytle coordinated how to distribute the boxes of pizza through the plane, realizing quickly that they’d have to get creative.
“While I’ve only been a Republic flight attendant for one year, I can say I’ve never served pizza on a plane! Janeen and I each took a type of pizza down the aisle, smiling and laughing with the passengers, who couldn’t believe the pilots made this happen,” Melissa said.
“We had a wonderful time; the passengers were awesome,” Janeen added. “They knew by then they were not going to make their connecting flights, but they were so kind and patient with us.”
While passengers were eager to make it to their destinations, for the crew, it was go-home day of a four-day trip. Each crew member shared that wasn’t on their mind while they were on the tarmac at CHS.
“Even on a smooth day, air travel can be a hassle. That particular day, it was turning out to be a nightmare for everyone. But when we arrived in Charlotte, I have never received so many gracious compliments from a group of passengers in my career. Some even said it was the best flight they ever had despite them arriving four hours late—that’s a big thanks to John, Janeen and Melissa. They had incredible attitudes that were contagious to our passengers,” Captain Blackann reflected.
“The entire trip flew by. We had a great crew. Captain Blackann is great to work with, and I can’t say enough about how the flight attendants handled the situation, engaging with the passengers, keeping their spirits up,” First Officer John Feuerstein added.
American Airlines shared their kudos for the crew members: “Props to this class-act crew! We’re incredibly proud of the American Airlines team and our regional partners—including Republic’s crew members—who take great care of our customers every day. Rain or shine, our team consistently proves they’re the best in the business.”
Captain Blackann, First Officer Feuerstein, Flight Attendant Ballard and Flight Attendant Lytle exemplified Republic’s guiding principles of encouraging a culture of fun and action, making the most of a frustrating situation and leaving our customers with a lasting, positive impression on Republic’s service. Way to go!