I actually wrote this blog last Friday, but I sent it to Alaska Airlines to let them know I was writing about their company and employee, and wanted to make sure it was okay with them to share this story. I got the okay this morning, and here is the post:
August 17, 2018
There are so many negative stories in the news, on social media, basically everywhere we turn. I wanted to share an amazing experience that Ailish and I shared with Alaska Airlines and an extraordinary employee of theirs named Ronni. Back in April of this year Ailish had contacted Alaska Airlines to ask them about her account after she passed; where would her miles go, what happens to her Alaska credit card (we both had cards on that account), and also a simple and humble request to see if she could get MVP status for a day, and get a pass into one of their lounges. It was on Ailish’s bucket list to be MVP and travel “VIP” for a day.
Ronni, who was touched by Ailish’s story and diagnosis, worked independently to find out proper channels to grant an exception for my sister. Ronni, after speaking with her supervisors told Ailish that 1 day was not enough and was able to grant Ailish MVP Gold status for the year! I cannot even begin to tell you how happy this made my sister. She cried happy tears!! In her reply email to Ronni, these were her exact words,
April 28, 2018
I am in tears with your phone call and reading this email. Your kindness has left me speechless. I feel like I’ve won the lottery. This is the nicest thing that has ever happened to me. You are an amazing employee and Alaska Airlines is so VERY lucky to have you. I want you to know that I am so touched by your response that I will be emailing Alaska Airlines corporate office. They should know they have an invaluable employee! Not everyone is dispensable. And with all the negative stories with Airlines lately, it will be nice to share such a positive one. You have literally made me feel special and be able to mark something off my bucket list! I will never forget this! Thank you for everything!
My sister then proceeded to send this email to Alaska Airlines corporate office:
April 30, 2018
To Every Alaska Airline Employee,
I have a great feel good story to tell about one of your customer service rep employees. I normally don’t take time out to write reviews, fill out surveys or praise people unless I have had a beyond spectacular or absolutely horrendous experience. The customer service rep is Ronni. I don’t have a last name for her but I do have reference #3771551. What she did for me brought me to tears, filled my heart with so much joy. I want to share my experience with EVERYONE that will listen and I hope they share it. An amazing employee working for an amazing company! There are so many negative stories out there with airlines, it nice to know not all is lost in humanity. I believe that a great company will recognize that not all employees are dispensable. Ronni is invaluable!
I have stage IV stomach cancer that is incurable but it is treatable. I’ve been battling this for 2.5 years and unfortunately the statistics for this diagnosis is less than a 4% chance of living past 5 years. My diagnosis was 1-2 years. While I’m alive I am tying up financial decisions, celebration of life plans, end of life care, and even down to the mundane, what happens to my cell phone account with my family plan, and last but not least my Alaska credit card account that I have my twin sister on my account. I wanted to know what she will need to do after I’m gone to be able to possibly still use the credit card account and that I will be able to transfer my reward miles so that she can travel to grieve and heal after I’m gone. All I did was ask Ronni about my account, my miles and a little bit of my situation. She didn’t even know that this year I had pneumonia in January, blood clots in my lungs in February, I had an allergic reaction to my chemo in March and coded during infusion and was in the hospital for a week. Less than a week later I was back in the hospital from losing half the blood in my body and needing to put a stent in my stomach so that I can eat again. Things were looking dire. I was on oxygen 24/7, using a wheelchair because I was so weak. My oncologist started talking to me about hospice care and DNRs. Today I’m off oxygen, blood clots are healing, I only use wheel chair for long trips, I can eat a special diet and back on a new chemo to continue the fight! I feel like I have a second chance at life.
Sorry for so much detail. I just wanted you to know why what she did means so much to me. I went through hell and she made to feel like I won the lottery. I’ve never had anything so great happen to me before.
My last question to Ronni was if Alaska would give someone MVP status for a day and be able to go into one of the Alaska lounges (I live in WA). On my bucket list was to be MVP and travel “VIP” for a day. I told her that I had to cancel a couple of trips due to my illness, but when I’m allowed to fly again I will be back to booking trips, like I hope to travel to Maui this December with my family for Christmas. Ronni emailed me and called me personally to say that one day wasn’t enough. She talked to her supervisors and they all decided to give me MVP gold status for a year!!! A YEAR?! I hope she doesn’t get in trouble for this. She explained the Alaska lounges operate differently (and I looked and saw a day pass isn’t expensive, had I known that all this time) and I totally understand that. She also told me Alaska was going to give my sister 2000 miles because she has given up the last 2.5 years of her life to be my caretaker (we’re both part of rewards program). I couldn’t believe it! I am still amazed and touched by her compassion and empathy. It’s people like her that give us support and motivation to keep fighting cancer! It was just so surprising and unexpected.
Please know you will have a loyal customer (and all my friends and family). I want to shout from the roof tops and tell everyone but I’m trying to figure out the right words and level of detail I want to share. Please recognize Ronni in some way. I thanked her over and over but she will never know how great she made me feel.
Unfortunately, Ailish passed away before she was able to use her new MVP Gold status or get her first-class upgrades. I had written an email in June to Alaska Airlines to get the memorial miles and write about how great the customer service was to my sister. I had no idea of what would come next. On August 2nd, I received this email:
August 2, 2018
You don’t know me, but your sister Ailish spoke so highly of you that I feel like I know you. My name is Ronni and I am the agent who your sister wrote to back in April.
When I got your sister’s email, I was touched and in tears. We get such a wide variety of mail, but it is rare for someone to be so genuine and kind in an email and so I felt truly connected to your sister’s journey and battle. By the time we finished corresponding we both were messaging how we wished we could hug each other in gratitude to one another. She even wrote a very sweet message to our corporate office in thanks. It was probably the kindest thing a guest has ever said.
Ailish had modestly requested for one day to live like VIP. More specifically, she wanted a chance for you and her to travel in first class. Of course she had other concerns she addressed in the Email, but it was that simple request that really humbled me. She wanted to spend that time with you. To enjoy the beauty of traveling with her family and to thank you for taking care of her. She was concerned that when she passed that you would need to know how to merge her miles so that you could still travel and grieve properly and still explore and experience things without her.
My heart broke when I saw that she passed away before getting to travel with you in June.
I cannot express how sorry I am for your loss. I know you were close and I know that no words will come close to the bond you two had.
Siobhan, your sister wanted more than anything for you two to experience first class. She wanted you to be able to travel and even to grieve in peace. in her letter she said “She has given up the last 2.5 years of her life to take care of me and I’d like to take care of her as best as I can, especially after I’m gone. I would like her to be able to travel where she needs to grieve and heal.”
I wanted to honor your sister’s wish and so I have put two Gold Guest Upgrades into your account. You can read more about them here https://www.alaskaair.com/cont ent/mileage-plan/membership- benefits/guest-upgrades, but this will enable you to upgrade to first class like Ailish wanted all along for at least one trip.
I am so sorry to be writing you under such tragic circumstances, but I truly believe your sister would have wanted me to reach out. To make sure that you get that experience that she wanted for you.
Please, if you have any questions about these upgrades or if I can assist your further in any way, let me know. Know that she made an impact even with strangers like me and that I am grateful that I got to know her even if just through phone calls and emails.
Customer Care Representative
For the first time since my sister passed, I cried tears of happiness!!! I cannot believe that Ronni continued to honor my sister’s wishes and reach out to me. She has gone above and beyond for me and my sister. I am crying right now as I type this, because it the kindness of a stranger that has brought a renewed faith in people, a bright light in what has been 2.5 years of hell and looming darkness. Even though Ailish wasn’t able to use her MVP Gold status, I am forever grateful that Ronni made her feel like a Rock star!!! I wanted to share this story because I know Ailish wanted to share it with the world, and because I wasn’t expecting to “meet” such a wonderful, compassionate person, who essentially is a stranger, but still wanted to honor my sister’s wishes. I wish I could give Ronni a big hug and I hope she knows how much she has touched Ailish’s life, and mine! Thank you to Alaska Airlines as well, for allowing your employee to touch the lives of your loyal customers! This is the type of news I want to see, the kind of stories I want to spread! I miss my sister every day, and I know she would be proud of me for sharing this with all of you!!! Life is too short, be kind!!!
On our cousin’s boat in Australia last December. We knocked Australia off her bucket list!!!
We got to pet a Koala in Australia, didn’t even know it was on our bucket lists until we did it!! Look how excited we are!!!