Great Tales of Engagement: Pizza on the Plane – With a Little Bit of Help

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Jul 11, 2014

Here’s one thing that’s good to remember: one highly engaged employee can make a world of difference.

Take the case of Frontier Airlines, a Colorado-based air carrier  that earned dubious title of Second-Most-Complained-About-Carrier in 2013 (in fairness, Spirit Airlines, the No. 1 most-complained-about-carrier, outnumbered Frontier’s complaints by almost 8-to-1).

However, 2014 is looking brighter for Frontier, and they’ve enjoyed a boost in positive awareness since a story broke about an enterprising Frontier pilot teamed up with a Domino’s Pizza manager to deliver a customer experience his passengers won’t soon forget.

Sound like the plot to a new primetime drama? Wrong. It’s employee engagement at its finest.

Fateful journey

Earlier this week, a Frontier pilot was forced to divert his Denver-bound flight to Cheyenne, Wyoming, one of dozens of flights delayed Monday evening because of heavy rain across Colorado. The only problem was the delay put them well past dinner time, and the in-flight peanuts weren’t going to cut it.

As they landed in Cheyenne at 10 pm the pilot made a desperate call to the nearest Domino’s Pizza. That’s when Domino’s Pizza manager Andrew Ritchie entered the scene.

Ritchie was just about to send everyone home when the pilot radioed in. “Mayday, mayday, we’ve just landed and we need to feed 160 people, fast!” (Those probably weren’t his exact words, but you get the idea).

Ritchie, faced with the decision to send his employees home or keep them late to fulfill the order, made the call and informed his crew they needed to make 35 pizzas and had to deliver them to the passengers at the airport in 30 minutes or less. Ritchie replied with confidence, “I read you, Frontier pilot. We’ll stay on your wing and guide you home to dinner, over.

The Rescue

The Domino’s crew was tired from a long shift, but some of that old silk-hat engagement magic took hold, and all of a sudden you couldn’t stop these guys from making pizzas. “Actually they were super excited,” Ritchie said of his fearless crew. They had a blast. It was a challenge.”

By 10:30 pm, the passengers on the Frontier flight had their pizza, the weather had calmed down, and everyone was back on track and off to Denver with full stomachs. As the plane took off, the pilot waved his hat and gave a wink to Andrew Ritchie, who was standing proud on the tarmac giving a crisp salute (This probably didn’t happen either, but it’s a nice image).

Domino’s manager Ritchie, his fearless crew, and the Frontier pilot all deserve recognition for their actions. Moreover, Frontier Airlines and Domino’s Pizza deserve a shout-out for fielding some exemplary employees.

This is what highly engaged employees do — like a good prime time drama, they grab your attention, evoke genuine compassion, and always make sure to tie up the loose ends so the audience leaves satisfied.

This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.

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