Sunday, January 25, 2009

So we went to Teterboro a few days ago. Teterboro is in New Jersey and it's the main business-jet airport that services NYC. We arrived late at night, cleared customs and went over to the Signature FBO, which is our usual FBO in Teterboro. When flying around we normally use a cheaper FBO, but my boss loves the Signature in Teterboro so when we go there we spend the extra money on fuel and ramp fees to make him happy.

Anyhoo, we show up at 11pm and it's cold and a few snowflakes are falling. Our jet really doesn't like being left out in the cold for very long - all sorts of hilarious and inconvenient electrical problems show up when she's been in the deep freeze for more than a couple of hours - so I asked to have the airplane hangared overnight. For those of you who aren't familiar, it generally costs more to hangar the airplane overnight than it does to put the flight crew up in a hotel. In the case of Signature FBO at Teterboro, they charge $265 US to open the hangar door for us, but it's still a lot cheaper than having to de-ice the airplane the next morning after frost has formed over the entire airplane, and the passengers sure appreciate stepping into a warm airplane a lot more than a cold one. Have you ever sat on frozen leather seats? Not fun.

I grudgingly agreed to the price of the hangar and then the nice lady behind the desk at Signature said "Oh, you will have to taxi the airplane across the airport to the hangar. We aren't allowed to tow the airplanes there any more. Not after all the trouble..." Her voice trailed off and she looked away.

Okay, I hop in the plane and fire her up and head over to the other side of the airport, where the lady assured me that people would be waiting to put the jet inside.

I'm going to cut the details of that evening short, except to say that it was a complete gong-show and I was stuck at the hangar for hours before the plane made it into the hangar and it was entirely their fault.

The next afternoon was no better - I showed up expecting my plane to be pulled out of the hangar and it wasn't, and the hangar was abandoned. That took about 45 minutes to sort out, by which time I was thoroughly frustrated and enraged at the prospect of delaying my passengers because Signature didn't have their act together enough to open the hangar door and tow a plane outside without agonizing confusion and delay.

When I was finally able to taxi the plane from the hangar area back to the main terminal to pick up my passengers, the supervisor on duty at Signature immediately came out to the plane and talked to me.

"I'll be honest. I know we screwed up and wasted your time last night and today. I have no excuse and I'm really sorry. We are canceling your hangar fee and your ramp fee and giving you a gift basket and we are also changing our procedures regarding communication so this doesn't happen again. I know you guys come in here all the time, but I'd feel just as bad if this was your first visit. We can do better and I take full responsibility for the screwups on our part. Oh, we also got sandwiches for your passengers because it's suppertime and we thought they might be hungry. No charge."

Now few things get me angrier than incompetence, but few things impress me more than someone taking responsibility for their actions and being straight-up about it.

Oh, and did she mention something about a gift basket?

I looked at what she brought. It had fruit and nuts and t-shirts and some LED keychains and chocolates and most impressively, a couple of USB thumbdrives for my laptop. The t-shirts were both XXL which really says something bad about corporate pilots, but that wasn't what I was focused on.

"Sweet! I love usb drives!"

She brightened visibly. I'm thinking that maybe the last pilot who got the mea culpa speech and accompanying gift basket from her must have been allergic to nuts or something, and she was expecting me to get psychotic on her anyway.

Long story short, I got the plane ready in record time and had flipped the last switch on the before-engine-start checklist about 2 minutes before my pax showed up, and we flew home and the weather was fine and the passengers were happy and I had a good landing in a howling crosswind, so all's well that ends.

Again, I understand that screwups happen, and that some days you just have to grit your teeth and get through it, but the way that Signature FBO in Teterboro handled the recovery of a bad situation really impressed me. We'll be back, if only to hope for a minor inconvenience that results in more free gear :D