(Disclaimer: this company is one of my customers at work. I did not call in any special favors or tricks, this was done at the sole discretion of the employees at the airport while I was 200 miles away).
We’ve been planning a vacation, and thankfully we are in the home stretch of making lists, packing, and essential “what did I forget”ed-ness. Over the past couple of days, our son Tyler has become withdrawn and sullen. My wife and I figured out pretty quickly that he was afraid of something, and yes, it was flying.


Tyler has never been on an airplane before, and someone in the neighborhood must have said something to throw him over the edge. He was trying to keep brave about it, but my wife and I knew that if we waited until the day we fly, all hell would break loose. So my wife decided to take a journey down to Fort Wayne International to show Tyler the sites he could see.
Obviously with all the security measures in place now since Sept 11th, she didn’t plan on getting anywhere near the planes, and was warned by me about “looking suspicious” since that’s enough to get you detained for hours on end with the $6.50/hr lackeys. So my wife went down to security, described what she was doing there, and innoculously asked about getting to the gates so he could at least see what was going on around the plane. Of course, they said no, but told her to check with the ticketing desk to see if there was anything they could do.
Enter ATA and their staff. My wife went down to the ticketing counter, rang the bell and one of their employees came to the desk. After my wife explained the situation to him, he said he knew exactly what he could do. He printed off three fake tickets (something that can be done apparently without problems) and walked over to the Homeland Security desk to get them OK’d so my wife and kid (along with my niece who was tagging along) wouldn’t have to be searched (apparently it’s policy to physically search/frisk anyone who wants to get into the boarding area without a real ticket or if you buy a ticket that morning one way with stops in Riyahd and Islamabad). Homeland Security approved it immediately and within minutes my kid was in the boarding area getting his first look at an airplane.
OK, that’s great. The two people from ATA got a scared kid through security and he could see the planes. But that’s not the end of the story.
For the next 15-20 minutes, he explains to Tyler what all the carts around the plane do (that one’s for air conditioning, that’s for power, that one has the baggage, etc). Tyler is starting to get into it and starts asking a bunch of questions. The ATA rep states that he would show him more, but he didn’t have a plane at the gate. Then he tells my wife to hang on, and walks over to another airline and explains the story to the gate agent. Two minutes later, they come back and gather my wife, son, and niece and promptly walk them out to an empty plane. My son was able to get in, sit down, try on the seat belt. Then the stewardess walked him back to show him where the bathrooms were, etc. At this point, he’s glowing. After the tour, they go back into the gate area where my son gets his sticker and a cookie. Then the rep tells them he’s writing a note down to let the people in Indy know that they have a special flier (i.e. my son) and to take good care of him.
For someone who’s ragged on the airline industry post 9/11, it’s absolutely refreshing to see that there is a sense of “doing the right thing” instead of blindly following rules and regulations. Instead, they followed the one regulation every business should know which is “Make your customers happy” and in this case, make one scared little boy’s day.

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