Conscious but more importantly Humane Corporations

My husband is at the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit in Austin while I was working in our hotel room when he texted me this link about a Southwest airlines pilot delaying a flight so that a grandfather could see his 3 year-old murdered grandson before they pulled the grandson off of life support.  When he returned to the room he told me the back story that Colleen Barrett, President Emerita of Southwest, had told to the Conscious Capitalism audience:

“On stage were Blake Nordstrom of Nordstrom, Howard Behar of Starbucks, and Colleen Barrett of Southwest airlines, and they were talking about the importance of allowing employees to use their own judgments when taking care of customers rather than relying on bureaucratic procedure manuals.  Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, asked them if they had any story to illustrate the point.  Colleen Barrett piped up, “I do.”  She started by saying that at Southwest they pride themselves on on time departures, and that that was one of the most important rules they have.  She then went on to recite the story of this man whose grandson had been murdered while he was away on a business trip and the doctors wanted to take the boy off life support.  He rushed to return home to see the boy and first called his wife to get him a ticket.  It was less than an hour before flight time and TSA regulations prohibit airlines from selling ticket reservations less than an hour before flight time.  But the Southwest employee told the man not to worry, she would have a ticket for him.  So she purchased the ticket without a name in order to avoid violating the “no reservations an hour before flight time” rule and waited until the man got to the ticket counter to pick it up.  Then she helped him work his way through security, while calling the Southwest employee at the gate.  The Southwest employee at the gate told the pilot, who upon hearing the story went to the passengers on the plane and told them that he was holding the flight until the man arrived, and everyone applauded.  The man finally arrived at the plane and got on, making the plane depart eighteen minutes late, allowing him to see his grandson one last time before they pulled the plug.

By this time Colleen and the whole audience was in tears.  After she recovered, she said that six Southwest employees had violated rules in order to make this happen, and the entire company regarded them as heroes for doing so.”

Even as I am writing this story he told me, I am crying myself. There is nothing to add.

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