6 tips for getting your way when you travel
The thought of spending 11 hours in a locked and upright position didn’t put Elyse Weiner in a good mood. But you wouldn’t have known it.
“I was leaving Venice for New York and found that my airline seat was broken,” recalls Weiner, who runs a Manhattan-based podcasting company. “I explained my problem to the flight attendant, but he became angrier and angrier, yelling that ‘nowhere in your agreement with our airline does it say you get to have a seat that works.’ ”
As the crewmember grew more agitated, Weiner had the opposite reaction: She turned nice.
“I stayed calm and smiled,” she remembers. She also offered to pay for a better seat by redeeming frequent flier miles.
It worked. After the confrontation, another flight attendant quietly moved her to business class. No extra charge.
At a time when pleasantness and politeness seem to be in such short supply in the travel business, being nice can take you a long way.
I should know. A few weeks ago, I arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare airport a little early and vaulted to the top of the standby list on a flight to Orlando by being extra polite to the gate agent and cracking a joke. I still can’t believe it.
That got me thinking: Is politeness a new form of currency in the travel world? Could a smile or an act of kindness be more effective in getting preferential treatment than elite-level status or the amount of money you paid for your airline ticket, rental car or hotel room?
I can almost hear some of the elite travelers out there snorting with disdain. No, you’re probably saying to yourselves, we deserve to be treated better than the tourists, no matter how we behave. But the rest of you know I’m on to something.
Question is, how do you get what you want by being nice? I asked travelers and the folks behind the counter to share their tips. Here’s what they told me:
When a flight is delayed or a hotel loses your reservation, no one can blame you for losing your cool. But don’t, say people in the know. Try going the other way. Don Schmincke, a writer and professional speaker, recalls an overseas flight on which he and his partner received seat assignments that weren’t together, making it impossible to get any work done. “Typical response: start yelling,” he says. His response? Calmly and politely express concern to the gate agent. “She said ‘just get your boarding pass and I’ll meet you at the gate,’” he remembers. “She showed up at the gate with two side-by-side seats — in first class.” Somehow, I think a scolding wouldn’t have gotten him the same seats.