Flying is extremely safe. It’s the rare occasion we have an air disaster. What’s more common, particularly if you’re a frequent business traveler like I am, is a computer SNAFU that completely paralyzes an airline. This was the case on a recent trip I was taking on Southwest Airlines from Albany, NY back home to Nashville. Please understand this post is not a dig at Southwest. I am and always will be their biggest fan. I actually took this flight for business up in Montreal. Yes, I fly to Canada on Southwest. Albany is the closest airport. Then I drive. They handled this like absolute pros!
I read about the big glitch the evening before but figured it was all sorted out. When I got to Albany for my 5:25 flight to BWI with connection down to BNA, I saw it, along with another early flight to Midway in Chicago was cancelled. The gate area was already packed with mostly vacationing families so I pulled out my phone and called Southwest. The rep told me they normally couldn’t switch me on the phone but this was a big deal and she would do what she could. She kept apologizing profusely (unlike United would in a situation like this – they usually make me feel like the cancellation is MY fault!) and managed to get me on a 10:30 AM flight to BWI with a connection at 4:20 PM to BNA via a quick stop in Cleveland. I would arrive at BNA at 6:40 PM. She set it up and my boarding pass showed up on my Southwest app. I thanked her and then headed off to look for a comfortable place to sit for 5 hours.
But something didn’t feel quite right. Passengers (again, mostly travelling novices) were getting frustrated. I heard a loud scream and shriek from a young mom with a toddler who was having a meltdown of Biblical proportions. The mom, not the toddler. Then I saw a group of Southwest flight attendants all talking. I held my phone up to my ear pretending to be on a call and walked close to eavesdrop. They were having trouble connecting to their dispatcher (from what I could tell) and none of them knew what was going on. SNAFU was turning into TARFU (Things Are REALLY F’d UP). I had a decision to make. Things were probably going into FUBAR (F’d Up Beyond All Recognition) and I didn’t want any part of it.
I needed to get home that night. If things didn’t get on track and my flight from Albany to BWI cancelled again, I may not get a later one out and miss my connection in BWI. Also, I had watched the weather reports the night before and there were some afternoon storms in the Midwest. This is normal in the hot afternoons. That could delay or cancel the flight going through Cleveland. I didn’t want to spend the night in the airport (I’m usually too cheap to get hotels and spent more than a few nights on an airport floor) so I opted to re-rent my rental car from National and drive home. Travel time was 14 hours and 20 minutes. I headed to the rental car terminal, plugged in my phone for the GPS and headed home.
As it happened I made it to the Nashville airport at 8:15 PM. My flight arrived well before that at 6:40 PM. My decision to drive turned out to be the wrong one. I thought back on my process. Maybe this will help you. I had 14 hours to think about it. It’s now called OSGO™.
O – Objective Data
When I knew there was a problem in Albany, I looked at what I knew:
- The flight was cancelled.
- Cancellations have a ripple effect.
- Summer flights are booked to capacity so it’s hard to rebook if you get cancelled.
- There would be storms in Cleveland.
- At the time, Southwest employees appeared to still be in the dark.
S – Subjective Data
I then reflected on what I assumed:
- I fly about 3 weeks a month on Southwest about 99% of the time. They are reliable but usually booked to capacity.
- I had already experienced computer glitches twice before, once on United and once on Southwest. It’s a mess.
- I saw the meltdowns at the smaller Albany airport. I didn’t want to see the probable mob at the much larger BWI where people would be getting cancelled out of flights to Aruba or Puerto Rico. There would probably be no place to sit and no open outlets to charge my phone or laptop.
G – Gut Feeling
- Something didn’t feel right.
- Based on previous experience, I just didn’t trust that my new, complicated itinerary would work.
So I decided to drive. And it was the wrong decision. So I then agreed to…
O – Own It
I followed the progress of the flight on the Southwest app at every stop on my drive. I felt good when I saw the Albany flight was delayed by 45 minutes. I was just a little bummed when I saw the flight left Cleveland on time. I was angry when I saw it landed at BNA and I was still driving through Louisville.
But I owned my decision. I used data and my gut reaction. Given what I had, it was the best decision.
Not to mention I came up with a new decision model to teach in my workshops, a new blog post, 3 new ideas for management curriculum, and caught up with 3 old friends on the phone. Overall, I’m ok with it.
So what about you? When it’s a big decision how do you decide? Next time, think about how to OSGO™ your decision in order to prevent FUBAR.