“There were angels all around me on that JetBlue flight”

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By Christopher Elliott

Early boarding privileges are typically reserved for frequent fliers and passengers with obvious disabilities. But on a recent JetBlue Airways flight from Boston to Los Angeles, gate agents granted special access to a passenger whose need wasn’t that apparent, and perhaps even in violation of their own airline’s policy.

Elaine Regienus-Gravbelle, who was recovering from a double mastectomy and two other minor surgeries, was on her way to way home to Redondo Beach, Calif. She asked a ticket agent if she could get on the plane first.

“Certainly,” he said without bothering to assess her medical condition or inquire about her status. “Take a seat near the gate and when we begin boarding I will signal you.”

An unexpected helping hand

Regienus-Gravbelle sat down next to a young man who was also on his way to LA. They struck up a conversation. Eventually, she asked him for a favor: Would he be kind enough to hoist her carry-on bag into the overhead compartment? Her recent operation made it painful to lift the luggage.

He, too, agreed to help.

When it came time to board, the young passenger grabbed her bag and followed her.

“The JetBlue employee looked at the young man and then at me, and said,’Your aide?'”

She nodded.

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Angels in the aisles

The gate agent stepped aside without questioning her, once again in apparent violation of JetBlue’s published procedures, and allowed both Regienus-Gravbelle and her friend to board the aircraft.

“Later when it came time to depart, several other passengers helped me out of my seat and carried my items out to the baggage area,” he says.

“Needless to say, there were angels all around me on that JetBlue flight that day and I will be forever grateful for all their kindness and generosity,” she says.

I’m happy to recognize the JetBlue gate agents and passengers on Regienus-Gravbelle’s flight. In an age of “me first” elites who line up to get on the plane first, and flight attendants who refuse to help passengers with their bags because their union told them they didn’t hafta, it’s heartwarming to hear about the “angels” on JetBlue flight 473 on Feb. 19, who came to the assistance of a passenger in need. (Here’s our ultimate guide to booking your airline ticket.)

If you’ve experienced excellent customer service recently, please let me know about it. We’re recognizing companies who go above and beyond the call of duty in a new weekly feature.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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