Call it an airport casualty.
A ruptured tendon in your poor editor’s left calf, thanks to a nearly missed flight this past week, in Frankfurt Germany.
Seems the TSA in Philly pulled a surprise security inspection on the first leg (no pun intended) of my Lufthansa flight back to Europe. It took just long enough to eat away at my connection window on the other end, and I was left to sprint O.J. style (pre-crime spree) to my gate.
In case you’ve yet to visit, the Frankfurt airport is an interesting place. Especially when you’re running late. Long corridors, lots of stairs, moving walkways, stupefied crowds trying to make sense of the overly complicated signs and directives.
I jumped, I dodged, I hurtled.
Three hallways, five flights of steps, a tunnel, one passport and security checkpoint each, and two 100 meter moving walkways later… and with a 30-lb backpack over my shoulder… I made the gate, sweating but relieved. Until I figured out that this wasn’t the right gate anymore. The sign that should have said “Paris” now said “Hamburg.”
With less than 60 seconds to spare and no sign anywhere indicating the new gate, I got news from a desk agent that the new departure deck was a hefty 29 gates away… easily 15 minutes on foot.
But I had to try, and try I did.
With a pivot and a leap, I landed back on another moving walkway ready for another full tilt run… when something went “pop” in my left leg. Like a bullet, like a hammer, like something your leg is not supposed to do… especially when you’ve got a flight to catch… but it went ahead and did it anyway.
I couldn’t move forward another inch.
And that’s where luck steps in, in the form of Lufthansa’s extremely helpful crew.
At exactly that moment, a yellow electric cart pulled up, carting two older French women who also now happened to be at the wrong gate for their flight. I hopped over and explained what just happened to the driver. She helped me up on the back, jumped off to call and ask them to hold the plane, then whisked us over to the right gate. I never would have made it, even without the injury, any other way.
At the desk, she checked me in and suggested a wheelchair. I couldn’t even hop the length of the boarding tunnel without whimpering like a kicked dog. So I accepted.
She called ahead and arranged another one for Paris. And on the flight, an attendant just coming off a 22-hour shift… and heading back home to Paris… insisted on getting me ice, checking in on me, and even offering to drop me off at my apartment after getting me through customs.
I told her I’d be fine. But another airport rep on the French side rolled me through the labyrinth of Terminal One at CDG, waited while I picked up my bag, and helped me into a taxi. Three days later, I’m well on the way to better. Two weeks from now, I’ll have forgotten the injury (almost) entirely.
But what I’ll remember is the customer care.
We don’t fly Lufthansa often, because we prefer to skip making that connection in Germany. Still, should the need ever come up again, I’ll fly with them gladly. And I know I’ll talk them up to friends looking to book flights on the same route.
As copywriters, we spend so much time getting customers in the door. It’s too easy to forget about them once that’s done. Yet look what happens when a business that’s already made the sale and banked the money, still insists on going the extra mile.
© 2008 John Forde