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They Cared: The Story of Delta Air Lines and Katrina

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As we watched the horrific pictures of the Katrina victims in various parts of the gulf, and in particular the sad and sometimes infuriating pictures of those stranded in New Orleans, it never occurred to me that there would be anything good we could see come out of this. Almost an entire city destroyed, countless lives lost, and other lives changed forever. And as I received word that we had family members involved in the nightmare, that belief seemed to be reinforced. But there was a beautiful light at the end of this dark tunnel.

The outpouring of help that came from this situation was something that one has to experience at least once in a lifetime to renew one's faith in humanity. Family, friends, friends of friends, even strangers, rushed to the rescue of not only my family, but members of countless other families in the face of this tragedy. Our gratefulness cannot be measured and the gifts of love will always be treasured.

But there was one act of kindness that was definitely surprising...and welcomed! There were 17 members of the family who had lost virtually everything. Of that number, five members were stranded in Mississippi without any means of transportation. They had fled their homes with almost nothing but the clothes on their backs. We had to get them to San Diego to my sister DiAnna's home where they could try to pull their lives together.

We just had to find a way.

Money was pooled together, thanks to the kind assistance of many generous people. We thought about the bus, but that wouldn't work. They were not running. Then, my hardworking sister discovered another route: Delta Air Lines. She discovered Delta was discounting their flights for Katrina victims trying to get to the safety of their families. Whatever they could do would have been welcomed and my wife Lisa and I were prepared to make up the difference. They just had to find transportation to Jackson, which was 90 minutes away.

To our comfort, the Delta representative--Margaret--was an angel. Delta was able to discount their normal ticket fee by over 85%! That was more than anyone could have reasonably expected! After all, Delta is a business and their primary concern, as all businesses should be, is with profit. Their job is to deliver the best service at a profit. But in a disaster, when the choice came down to lives versus making a profit, they chose lives in this situation. I was impressed and there is definitely a moral and business lesson to be learned from their choice.

There is an old business adage that every salesperson has heard in seminars, sales meetings, and customer service programs: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. I don't think I will ever hear that phrase again without thinking about the kindness shown to us by Delta Air Lines. Sometimes, you have to put profit aside--even if partly--when it is necessary to serve your customer. They will appreciate it and they will never forget it. Why? Because they know you care.

Thank you, Margaret and Delta Air Lines. You cared!

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