It was just after 11 p.m. on a recent Sunday, when a JetBlue flight from Boston to San Francisco developed mechanical difficulties and was diverted to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, where Delaware North operates all restaurants and retail shops.
The diverted passengers were facing an extended layover while awaiting a replacement aircraft, and making matters worse – every possible outlet for a bite to eat had closed for the evening. Or so it appeared.
JetBlue contacted airport officials and asked what could be done. Answering the call from Delaware North were a team of associates who stepped out of their ordinary roles.
“With our restaurant managers gone for the night, the airport supervisor called Aaron Kozial, supervisor of our cleaning crew,” said Rich Johnson, Delaware North’s general manager at the airport. “Fortunately, Aaron and his fellow supervisor, Chris Higgins, are cross-trained in cooking, cashing and bartending for just such an emergency.”
In the meantime, JetBlue issued passengers $20 vouchers.
“In the spirit of a high-performance team, Aaron and Chris wasted no time in moving their pre-security bartender into one of our closed restaurants, the Queen City Kitchen, and opening the venue for the 140 stranded passengers,” Johnson said. “One of the cleaners, Chris Badner, who is currently cross-training as a cook at Queen City Kitchen, fired up the kitchen equipment as Aaron and Chris grabbed banks and manned the registers.”
And so, in true holiday-season spirit, the guests came together over food.
“What began as a catastrophic inconvenience quickly turned into a four-hour celebration, as the previously trapped passengers ate, drank and celebrated together to the tune of $2,300 in incremental sales,” Johnson added. “Meanwhile, the unsung hero of our story, Ian Rutter, finished everyone else's cleaning duties to make this magic possible.”
PHOTO CAPTION: From left, Aaron Kozial, Chris Badner, Chris Higgins and Ian Rutter went above-and-beyond late on a Sunday evening to provide memorable experiences for 140 JetBlue passengers who were diverted to the Buffalo airport.