The other day, I came across an article on CNN Travel giving travelers advice on how to act in various situations involving travel. Towards the top of the list was a section on how to speak to ticket agents and their ilk. Here’s what they suggested:
Always be patient and polite. This person could be the difference between you getting the flight that night or having to spend it on the airport floor.
Bad: “Can you get me on the next flight out — I can’t miss my connection to Europe!”
Good: “Excuse me, Barbara. I totally understand you guys are slammed right now, but if you have one minute, I’d really appreciate if you could try to get me on that next flight out, otherwise I’ll miss my international connection. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.”
On paper, this looks obvious; it looks as if the “Good” example is more likely to get you some extra assistance over the”Bad” one. The way that the author wrote it on CNN Travel makes the “Bad” appear to sound rude, while the “Good” seems to be quite polite in its length and politeness.
However, I see something completely different. Basically, I staunchly believe that their “Bad” example is the way to get some extra help, but first, let’s look at the “Good” example. When I play that long monologue to the ticketing agent out in my head, I hear a condescending tone that seems out of place to how drastic the situation is that the message is trying to explain. If I was the agent and a passenger came to me and started calmly reciting this paragraph, I would not be able to give as full of a shit as I could had they acted like missing this flight would be the end of the world. I mean, when I’m about to miss a flight, it feels to me as it is the end of the world, and my subtle bodily actions fortify my story. Calmly telling the story may suggest that the passenger may not give much of a shit, so why should the agent? Maybe you have no appointments lined up or a 9-5 to show up to that you would miss if you took the next flight, or perhaps you have so much money that it doesn’t matter to you – this is what the ticket agent may (perhaps wrongly) assume if your message comes across this calmly.
But if you act anxious, like I do (whether I’m late or not), it seems to help almost every time. Not only is the truth obvious because you are wearing your heart on your sleeve, but the agents will be able to relate to that human need that your words and actions convey; these anxious feelings transcend all kinds of barriers. In the scenario where I am the ticket agent, if someone ran up to me, huffing and puffing, and pleaded with me to let them on the plane (“I can’t miss my connection to Europe!”), I would no doubt feel some sympathy and try to go even slightly above and beyond.
I am a procrastinator, which means I leave my apartment for the airport about an hour too late. When I get to the security line, my anxiety peaks, and I often notice myself glancing impatiently towards the front of the line and looking at my watch impatiently. I’ve asked nearby airline agents, “Do you think that I’ll miss my flight? My plane’s boarding now.” They usually respond that I’ll be fine, but I often continue to pester.
“Are you sure?”
After enough of these, the last one to them perhaps sounds like “Open Sesame.” They tell me to follow them, and I am escorted to the passport TSA agent, and on to the screening area. While this can’t possibly work for everyone, I am actually confident enough to factor this in sometimes. You probably shouldn’t try this, and I hope that this article does not make me legally responsible for any change fees, but I think that it should be kept in mind in a pinch. Good luck!