My wife emailed me a story about an actress who arrived late to check-in for her flight and was denied boarding. She wanted to get my take and thought it might make for a good tip. RELATED: 10 Airport Security Hacks Every Traveler Needs to KnowNatalie was right as usual. As far as my take, first of all, I had no idea who Sheryl Lee was but that doesn’t matter, which is actually one of the main points of my take. I don’t mean to disrespect Sheryl Lee Ralph because she seems like a nice lady and is obviously a very talented entertainer. But when it comes to airline operations, it shouldn’t matter who you are when you roll up to an airport counter.
Here’s the gist of what happened per Sheryl’s video, which she posted on her Twitter account and which you can watch below: “This just happened: I went to the airline — you know, the one I’m a three million miler on — to check my bags and I was four minutes late because they need 45 minutes to check you in. And the woman said there is absolutely nothing we can do for you. I was like, um, it was only four minutes and I’ve checked in on flights later than this.”
According to Sheryl, the Delta agent said: “Oh absolutely not.”
Sheryl ended her video with: “I was just saying that in these days and times, just be kinder, just be nicer because you just never ever know. Anyway, I just bought my ticket on American Airlines and we’ll be flying now. Thank you, God bless you and be well.”
— sheryl lee ralph (@thesherylralph) October 30, 2022
When I Googled Sheryl’s name to see who she was, a Madame Noire article popped up with the headline: “Was Sheryl Lee Ralph Being Nice-Nasty To A Delta Employee?” I’ve never heard the phrase ‘nice-nasty’ but I think it’s spot on to describe Sheryl’s video.
Sheryl’s a three million flyer on Delta and she arrived only four minutes past the 45-minute cutoff to check a bag. Sheryl says she’s checked in for flights later than this but she didn’t say if it was the same airport.
As most travelers know, airports and airline agents aren’t created equally. Large airports, which appears to be where Sheryl was, given the high ceiling behind her, take a lot more time for a bag to make its way to the plane than a small airport in, say, Erie, Pennsylvania. When I used to fly out of ERI, I could roll up 30 minutes before my flight.
Also with a small airport, frequent travelers can easily create personal relationships with the agents but at a mega airport, it’s almost impossible. Not only that, some agents are new and don’t want to bend the rules. Or they’re just having a bad day and don’t want to go the extra mile. You would think a three million mile flyer would make an agent do everything they can and if they couldn’t at least be kind about it, try to defuse the situation. I wasn’t there so I don’t know. Maybe Sheryl threw some serious attitude or should I say, maybe she was being nice-nasty to the agent and the agent wasn’t having any of it.
Here’s what travelers can learn from Sheryl’s situation:
1. Respect airline rules/cutoffs
Airlines have cutoff times for a reason. Logistically, it’s obviously not easy to get a flight with hundreds of people and bags off on time unless you make sure everyone and their bags are planeside well before departure. Heck, I have a difficult time getting my two kids to school on time and we leave about 45 minutes prior to their school gates closing.
2. Always show up early
These days, planes are going out almost 100% full so if you miss your flight, you might be stuck for a while. Depending on the destination and time of year, it could be days so it’s better to be an extra hour early than be stuck for days.
3. Always be extra nice to agents
Again, I don’t know if Sheryl was being nice-nasty or not but if her frustration came across as attitude, an agent will never bend the rules. I remember once, my wife and I arrived to our gate in the Frankfurt Airport just as the jet bridge door closed. We were late because our flight from Porto, Portugal was a couple of hours late thanks to an air traffic controllers strike in France (what else is new?). We were flying to Doha on Qatar Airways on their brand new A350 plane.
The agent said we had just missed the flight and we would have to take the next one later in the day. I was so bummed but did I give the agent a difficult time? Absolutely not. And when I caught my breath from running through FRA, I quickly and kindly explained the situation and told her how excited I was to be going on the A350 and the next thing you know, she made a phone call and the door opened. A smile and kindness goes a long way. A box of chocolates doesn’t hurt either.
Having elite status and being famous might help open doors but being genuinely kind, or as I like to call it, nice-nice, goes further.