Gate Agent’s Kindness Is Out To Lunch… Or Supper?

, , , , , | Working | April 9, 2020

(My mom and I have a flight home to Canada scheduled to depart shortly before noon. Since we need to navigate public transit to get there and don’t want to risk making ourselves late, we wake up in the morning, pack, and head straight to the airport without eating breakfast. Once we are checked in and through security, we decide to find our gate so we know where we need to be. It turns out it’s down a long hallway, far away from all the shops and restaurants, but this is the reason we checked before relaxing, to be aware of this. Both at the check-in desk and when purchasing our tickets, we are informed that there will be one meal served on the nine-hour flight and we need to purchase in advance to guarantee availability, but we will have the option to buy it on the plane. It’s about an hour before takeoff and half an hour until scheduled boarding, but knowing it’s a bit of a trek back to the restaurants, I approach the gate agent before we leave to find breakfast.)

Me: “Excuse me, I was just wondering if you know if the meal served on board will be lunch or dinner.”

Gate Agent: “You’d need to purchase that in advance to guarantee we have them for you. Did you prepay for your meal?”

Me: “No, but we were told we could purchase them onboard if we changed our minds.”

Gate Agent: “We will have some meals available for purchase with credit card, but once those are gone, they’re gone.”

Me: “Okay, but do you know if they’ll be serving around lunchtime or around dinnertime? I ask because we haven’t eaten breakfast yet and want to know if it’s worth us running to get some now or if we’d have to wait until supper if we didn’t?”

Gate Agent: “You’ll have to talk to the in-flight crew about that. But now, you need to come in and prepare to board, because we’re going to start boarding soon.”

(She gestures to a small area behind the desk, separated from the rest of the terminal by a few glass panes, with only chairs in it where a few dozen people are already seated.)

Me: “But the plane isn’t scheduled to leave for almost an hour. We’re just trying to find out how long we’d have to wait if we decide not to go get food now because we haven’t eaten yet.

Gate Agent: “Like I said, you’d have to talk to the in-flight crew about that. But if you leave now and we’re ready to go and you’re not back, we won’t wait for you.”

Me: “I’m not asking you to wait; boarding isn’t even scheduled to start for half an hour.”

Gate Agent: “But we will have to close the doors. If you’re not back and we have everyone accounted for, even if it’s before our scheduled time, we have to close the doors; we can’t wait for you.”

(My mom just nudged me and said we were going to get food. Like I’m sure most people could say, my mom is the first person to tell me I need to check my tone when I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, but even she couldn’t understand why the agent was being so rude to me because she thought my tone was perfectly polite the entire time. She also pointed out the biggest flaw in the agent’s logic, that if we weren’t back, obviously not everyone would be accounted for.

We got breakfast and food to take on the plane and made it back in plenty of time. Lucky we did, because the flight attendants — who were lovely — didn’t serve the meal until almost supper time. When we got to the next airport, I was held up for hours in customs and we had to be put on a later connecting flight, so my mom used the time to write an email to corporate complaining about an issue with delays she had had on the way to London and about the unreasonable gate agent in London.

She didn’t mention the customs thing because she understood, but for some reason they wrote her a long email back a week later explaining how sometimes customs chooses to do secondary inspection and it can take time and the airline has no control over it. She just left it, though, because they addressed her issue in a separate email and said they have no influence over gate agents in other countries, even if they are wearing the Canadian airline’s uniform.)

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