A walk-in client and some pictures of a little girl turned an
ordinary day into a chance for Maura Cullinane to make a
co-owner of Carlson Wagonlit Travel in Canton, Mass., was at her
desk one day last year when Bill McLaughlin walked into the office.
He asked what it would cost to fly two people from the Philippines
to Boston. As Cullinane investigated the price, a story
McLaughlin's niece, Haya Keena Navor, lived on a remote island
in the Philippines. She had been severely burned in an accident at
the age of 2. "They are very poor and don't have electricity, so
her family used a gas lantern, which tipped over," Cullinane
recalled. Haya Keena's blanket caught fire, and she was burned from
the waist down.
McLaughlin had arranged for the Boston Shrine Institute to
donate medical treatment. He showed pictures of the girl that
"brought tears to my eyes," Cullinane said.
Severe scarring had hindered the girl's growth and made walking
difficult. The story touched Cullinane deeply, especially since her
mother had died in a house fire at the age of 52. She felt
compelled to help.
Cullinane wrote to several carriers that serve Manila,
Philippines, from Boston; sent them photos, and asked for a free
ticket. After a little back-and-forth, Cullinane said, she was
pleasantly surprised when Northwest Airlines said it would donate a
ticket for the girl and a discounted flight for her father.
Last August, at the age of 6, Haya Keena arrived in the U.S.,
along with her father. During her stay, she visited Cullinane's
house and played with her 2-year-old daughter. "She barely spoke
English, but she smiled all the time," Cullinane said.
Haya Keena's surgeries were so successful that she went home
earlier than anticipated, but subsequent treatment will bring her
back again next May. Cullinane said she'd be happy to handle the
For Cullinane, the experience brought new meaning to the term
"job satisfaction." She advised fellow agents to "try to go the
extra mile because it is worth it, and not everybody is as
fortunate as we are."
How to ask for a free flight
So you want to
help clients with special needs by getting them a free flight?
Maura Cullinane, a co-owner of Carlson Wagonlit Travel in Canton,
Mass., suggested the following (see story above for the particulars
of her client's case):Make your first call to your favorite airline representative.
"I talked to [Northwest Airlines'] Terry Leo in Boston. We have a
good relationship, and he said they do help in these situations, so
he put me in touch with the right people."If you don't have a regular rep, contact customer services and
ask staff there to direct you to the person in charge.Mail a formal request in writing, including as much information
as possible. Cullinane said she sent the airlines as many pictures
of her client as she could, to best convey the seriousness of the
girl's situation.Keep copies of everything you send and wait a few weeks for the
airline to reply, she said.If your initial appeal doesn't fly, don't back down, she said.
"Call and tell the airlines that they will get free press out of
it," Cullinane said, adding that the donated ticket garnered
excellent publicity for Northwest in the Philippines and some
mentions in U.S. media as well.More good questions
Can the IRS really help track down a lost employee?
probably referring to a service the IRS offers to help track down
someone to whom you owe money or to help reunite lost family
members. The service (IRS Procedure 94-22) is simply a
letter-forwarding process. But it can be very effective.
You must have the Social Security number of the person you are
trying to reach and a reason that the IRS approves for making
contact. The IRS will not forward collection letters.
If it approves, the IRS will forward your letter to the most
recent address listed on the person's tax return. But once the
letter has been sent, you will have no way of knowing if it was
received unless the person replies to your correspondence.
Should I correct employees who treat each other poorly?
You must. No doubt you have taught your employees to maintain a
high degree of courtesy with customers. But if that behavior
doesn't also extend to co-workers, you need to step in. How a
fellow employee is treated has a big impact on customers'
perception of your organization.
Lead by example. Give your employees the same courtesy and
respect that you do your customers. And insist they do
One way to promote understanding is to begin a "walk a mile in
their shoes" program. Let employees handle another's job for a few
hours or a day just to see how the operation looks from that
You may even let employees help you juggle the many duties of a
manager. They could help you pay bills, schedule workers, take
phone calls and deal with a complaint.
Keeping the team working well together is one of your most
important jobs. Teaching them to respect and support one another is
one of your best tools to accomplish this.
Former agency owner Dan McManus is the publisher of the
newsletter The Successful Worldspan Agent. Contact him at [email protected].