Product review – Journey Pillow

Several months ago I met Anthony Williams (clinical neurophysiologist)  and Candace Williams (industrial engineer). They are a brother and sister duo who hipped me to a product they said would revolutionize how people traveled. As someone who travels frequently, of course I was intrigued. We sat down and they demonstrated their prototype traveling neck pillow.

Before I give you more details, let me inform you that I have used plenty of neck pillows over the years. The inflatable type. The one filled with buckwheat. The rolled up blanket. The passenger next to me. The sidewall of the airplane. All have their degree of usefulness, but none quite works the way it is designed. The inflatable type loses inflation. The buckwheat variety can be noisy with all that buckwheat moving around inside, and they retain body heat. When it comes to using airplane blankets, if it’s not sealed in plastic I certainly will not use it. My seatmate’s shoulder is a last resort option. If I’m really tired all bets are off so be forewarned if you find yourself seated next to me! And the sidewall is just downright uncomfortable.

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Candace demonstrated Journey Pillow and I was intrigued with the design features of the pillow:

  • ergonomically designed
  • filled with memory foam
  • non-slip clips that attach to your belt, seatbelt, or waistband
  • straps – the straps, along with placing the pillow over your head, reminded me of donning a life vest (“Place the vest over your head and attach the straps to the front of the vest”)

I’ve used Journey Pillow on a few domestic flights and can report that the pillow lives up to its claims. Journey Pillow cradled my neck comfortably, didn’t retain as much body heat as the buckwheat filled travel pillow can, and overall was more effective than the inflatable travel pillow. Journey Pillow travels well and fit neatly inside my roller bag. One minor issue I encountered were securing the  clips to my waistband. Wearing shirts that were untucked was a bit problematic. I had to lift my shirt to attach the non-slip clips to my waistband. This caused my shirt to ride up, bunch up, and wrinkle underneath the straps. Other than that the pillow delivered on its promise. Using Journey Pillow did garner some stares and a few questions from passengers. I’m traveling to New Zealand in late October and looking forward to testing out the pillow for long-haul travel.

Anthony and Candace have developed a travel pillow that offers many advantages over other types of travel pillows. Check out their video describing Journey Pillow in detail:

http://www.journeypillow.com

Sylvester

 

How customer service has made me a better person

Can I just be a customer and not critique?
This week I experienced a few service failures. One had to do with being overcharged on my credit card. Another had to do with delivery of a new refrigerator. And lastly, service received at the local grocery store. In the case of the overcharge, the total bill was $23, I tipped $5 for a total of $28. Apparently the server rang in a tip of $28 on a $23 bill for a total of $51. I noticed the error while reconciling my bank statement. I called the restaurant and was promised a call back from the manager I spoke with. When I did not hear back from the restaurant it made me nervous. So I paid a visit to the restaurant with my copy of the receipt. The manager was apologetic, assured me the issue would be fixed, and offered me a free meal. Two days later, a credit of $28 posted to my bank account. In the case of the refrigerator, the two delivery guys were behind the 8-ball. They had very little idea of how to deliver a refrigerator, didn’t know how to use the hand truck, almost damaged my door and new counter tops, had no tools with them to remove the packing crate, and spoke very little English. My bilingual FA friend who lives in LA was most helpful at such an early hour. I will need to follow up with the major department store around this service failure. I want to bring to their attention how this contract company is tarnishing their brand. Later that morning the local grocery store I visit, which normally provides great customer service, let me down. The cashier was having such a great, fun conversation with the guy bagging my grocery, that she barely noticed and interacted with me. I thanked the guy bagging my grocery and he didn’t even respond. They had more dialogue between themselves than I did. By end of the day I felt deflated, tired, and even more aware of customer service provided by others.
Providing customer service is a major part of my job. In addition, I facilitate classes on how to be more customer service-oriented. There are times when I say to myself, “Can I just be a customer and not critique?” It’s difficult to disconnect and just be a customer. For those who are in customer service roles, I’m sure you know what I mean. For people like us, we tend to give the person providing customer service the benefit of the doubt, tip 20% or more, hold doors open more often, look people in the eye when speaking to them, and say thank you when the other person says thank you first. “No, thank YOU.” As if we must get the last thank you in.
It has been said before that eyes are the window to the soul. The next time you’re interacting with someone look into their eyes. No, I mean really look. And let’s be clear, there’s a difference between looking, and staring. There’s a wealth of information that you can receive. It is in these moments between you and other person that you have a golden opportunity to connect on a level deeper than your role or your job. It is in these moments that you have the opportunity to connect on a level that lets the other person know that “you matter to me.”
At this stage of life I’m more aware than ever before of the customer service that is being given to me. At the same time I’m more aware of the service I provide others. Over the years I found that providing customer service has made me a better person. Or has being a better person made me give better customer service? Either way, it’s all good.

When is an emotional support animal not an emotional support animal?

ESA. Emotional support animals. So many things have been said and written about this topic. Conversations around those gaming the system as a way to not pay for traveling with their pets in the cabin has reached a fever pitch. As a former flight attendant, I assisted numerous passengers with disabilities who traveled with their service animals. These companions, life savers for many, provide an invaluable service. And as we know passengers with disabilities have the right to travel with their service animals who assist them with their daily needs. As for passengers with emotional needs, emotional support animals are a necessary companion to function in everyday situations. Let’s be clear: there is a distinction between service animals and emotional support animals. According the ada.gov site:

“Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.”

According to Wikipedia, the definition of an emotional support animal states:

“An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of the disability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. Emotional support animals are typically dogs and cats, but may include other animals. In order to be prescribed an emotional support animal by a physician or other medical professional, the person seeking such an animal must have a verifiable disability.”

Back to the feeling amongst many that the emotional support animal situation is “getting out of hand.” Just today the following tweet was posted and has garnered lots of attention:

Things have gotten so far “out of hand” that Florida makes it a crime to register your dog as a service dog when in fact it is not. Those caught being dishonest are subject to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. This new law does not apply to those passengers traveling with emotional support animals.

Again, many things have been written and said about emotional support animals. One day, while facilitating a FA continuing qualification course (annual re-qualification class), the subject of emotional support animals came up. Some in the class had very strong feelings about those passengers who are dishonest with their pets. As the facilitator I remained neutral, allowed conversation to proceed, keep class on track with facts around passengers with disabilities and important it is for us to care for them. After some discussion, one of the FA in the class shared that her daughter travels with an emotional support animal. She also shared that hearing some of her colleagues speak in unkind terms about those with emotional support animals was appalling. You could have heard a pin drop.

As a matter of law, those traveling with disabilities, thank goodness, have rights governed by the Air Carrier Access Act. Legislation of this nature comes around because people with disabilities were not (and in certain circumstances, still not) being treated fairly with dignity and respect.

So, what is the “solution”? How do you determine who’s being dishonest? What impact does this have on those with a legitimate need to travel with an emotional support animal? Or should we just mind our own business?

 

The Flying Ace (1926)

A couple of nights ago I saw the film “The Flying Ace”. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I.

The film was released in 1926 by The Norman Studio in Jacksonville, Florida. The plot of the film, as written at imdb.com states: “A veteran World War I fighter pilot returns home a war hero and immediately regains his former job as a railroad company detective. His first case: recover a stolen satchel filled with $25,000 of company payroll, locate a missing employee, and capture a gang of railroad thieves.”

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The writer, producer, and director of the film was Richard E. Norman. According to his grandson, who was present at the screening, Richard E. Norman was “ahead of his time.” Richard E. Norman set out to showcase black life through inspirational characters. It was through his “race films” that Richard E. Norman set out to give Black audiences characters and stories they could aspire to.

On hand at the screening were historians, movie buffs, and aviation enthusiasts. Opening remarks were given by Dan Norman, the grandson of Richard E. Norman. Dan Norman is currently a Delta 757/767 Captain. Dan’s father was also an airline pilot. The film was accompanied by a conductor and musicians playing various instruments. This music brought the silent film to life.

For over an hour I sat transfixed at the screen as images of black people in roles of fighter pilot, love interest (believed to be inspired by the aviatrix Bessie Coleman), detective, and railroad manager played on the screen. I sat there thinking, “all of this happened in 1926!”

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Tonight in Hollywood the 88th Academy Awards will be celebrated. Many of today’s Black actors and actresses plan not to be in attendance. The #OscarSoWhite movement has highlighted, once again, the lack of Black actors and actresses who have not been nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

According to Dan Norman this film will be available on DVD shortly as the music is currently being scored. When it becomes available I’ll be sure to pick up a copy. I encourage you to check it out as well.

Thanks Richard E. Norman for making this film. That’s entertainment!

 

Coldplay and Song Airlines?

When Coldplay was announced as the halftime act at Super Bowl 50 I was excited to see the show, hear the songs they’d play. As it turned out they were headliners and joined (some would say eclipsed) on stage by Beyonce and Bruno Mars. There was even the popular actress who mistook them for Maroon 5 and sent out a tweet about it. Oops. From the first time I heard Coldplay, I’ve always been a fan.

Many years ago I interviewed for a startup airline within-an-airline. Eventually that airline became known as Song. At the time of the interview it didn’t have a name (code named FreshAir). We were brought in and told to be ourselves; that this new venture was all about self expression.

It was during our initial training that we were shown the video below. It featured an amazing voiceover and a very cool song I had never heard before. I was totally drawn in. The song was Clocks by Coldplay. Ever since then whenever I hear this song I’m reminded of Song. During my years as a Star (that’s what we were known as; we were also referred to as Talent) I learned so much about myself, so much about customer service, so much about what it means to work in an environment that was inclusive, supportive. For 3 years I lived what going to work should be like. Song gave us all the opportunity to shine, to blossom.

Enjoy the video!

WordPress 2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

#TBT Memory – Song Airlines

Many airlines have in place a system in place whereby crew members can be rewarded or recognized for providing exceptional customer service. But did you know my former airline, Song Airlines, had a system in place whereby crew members could reward passengers?

One such innovation was rewarding passengers for good behavior or good deeds with round trip tickets. That’s right. During this particular campaign each FA (we were called Talent) were given 4 roundtrip tickets to travel anywhere on the Song route map. At the time we flew from the Northeast (NY, Boston) to Florida (FLL, PBI, MCO, TPA), from the Northeast to the West Coast (LAX, SFO, SEA, LAS), and from Florida to the West Coast. Not sure if any other airlines did or do this. It was truly unique. Due to our size (approximately 1100 crew members and dedicated ground staff) and culture we were able to implement, test and try many things. Will share more things in future posts.

Here’s how the campaign worked: If you as a crew member observed a passenger doing a good deed: helping fellow passengers, assisting you or other crew members, or just plain being a thoughtful, caring human being, you as the crew member could reward the passenger with a roundtrip ticket. There were no stipulations placed on the deed being done by the passenger. Each crew member had free reign to do what they wished with their 4 tickets. Once you gave out your tickets that was it. I can tell you passengers were really nice to the crews because they knew we had tickets!

Good times. Good times indeed.

Sylvester