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United pilot strives for pleasant flights

At last, some airline news that won’t make you weep. The Middle Seat columnist Scott McCartney reports on United pilot Captain Denny Flanagan in this week’s Wall Street Journal, highlighting Flanagan’s efforts to make flying a pleasant experience in the face of delays, reduced amenities, intrusive security measures, and other hassles.

Among Captain Flanagan’s personal touches are notes to first-class and elite-level frequent flyers, orders of McDonald’s hamburgers or other snacks on flights that are delayed or diverted to other cities, and phone calls to parents sending unaccompanied children on his flights.

Flanagan has become a mini-celebrity of sorts. Frequent flyers regularly swap stories about him on, and he’s inspiring other United pilots to adopt similar practices. With all the hassles of flying nowadays, his efforts help frazzled flyers settle down, relax, and (truly) enjoy their flights.

It’s a little sad when good customer service becomes so rare that a pilot doing his job well is big news. And given the state of flying this summer, I hope a lot of pilots from other airlines see this article, too. I may have my head in the clouds (pun fully intended), but here’s hoping Flanagan’s behavior becomes more the rule, and not the exception—and that it becomes so commonplace that future news reports instead document scant, isolated incidents of poor customer service.

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