Now that's customer service.
It was a wild summer at U.S. airports where there were more cancellations and delays than usual due to spiking demand after the pandemic, understaffed airlines and severe storms. But a story from Tampa International Airport in Florida shows that amid the chaos, there was a brief glimmer of humanity.
News Channel 8 in Florida reports that after finishing her freshman year at college, Kira Rumfola was ready to return home to New York for the summer when she ran into a problem at Tampa International Airport. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to bring her pet betta fish, Theo, with her on a Southwest flight home.
“As a recent addition to Kira’s life, Theo is very special to her, having provided comfort and companionship as she adjusted to college life,” Southwest wrote in a Facebook post.
It’s against Southwest policy to allow fish on its flights.
“Ismael, our Customer Service Agent, talked Kira and her father through multiple options,” Southwest wrote on Facebook. “When nothing worked out, Ismael offered to take care of Theo himself while Kira was home for the summer.”
Kira swore she'd be back in the fall for the next school session and would pick up her fish when she returned to Florida.
According to a Southwest Twitter post, Kira stayed in touch with Ismael and Jamee, his fiance and fellow Southwest employee, all summer. The couple regularly shared photos of Theo with Kira and they even bought him a larger fish bowl.
POV: After learning at the airport that you can't bring your fish home, a Southwest Customer Service Agent offers to take care of him until you come back. pic.twitter.com/MqRogKMLvl— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) September 15, 2022
Kira (the Customer with the fish) kept in touch with Ismael (our Employee, aka “Airport Fish Taker”) all throughout the summer after her freshman year in college as Ismael and his fiancé Jamee (a fellow Southwest Employee) took care of Theo (the Beta Fish). pic.twitter.com/HjndxnQFWv— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) September 15, 2022
On September 15, Southwest shared a photo of Kira, Ismael and Jamee when they met up to reunite the student and her fish. Kira gave the couple a gift card as a thank-you. “Thank you again for the gift card, it was completely unnecessary,” Jamee wrote in a text shared by Southwest. “We hope you guys got back to your dorm ok. Let us know if you need anything.”
Theo lived with Ismael and Jamee for the entire summer—they had to be a bit teary-eyed to see him go.
The story struck a chord with people on Facebook, who thought it was an amazing show of customer service and humanity.
“That definitely shows going over and above. There is still kindness in our world!" Shelly Tibbs Eber Caulfield wrote.
"Ismael deserves a promotion! He's clearly shown he's willing to do any-fin possible to help a customer," Kristen Calvert wrote.
Matt Pope wins best joke. "That’s the greatest fish story featuring a guy named Ismael since that book by Melville," he wrote, making a reference to “Moby Dick."
Everyone appreciates a great story about someone going above and beyond in their job to help a customer. But what Ismael and Jamee did went far beyond customer service. They showed up as human beings to help a stranger take care of a beloved family member when they had run out of options. Now, that’s a great example of humanity at its best.
The only remaining question is, what will Kira do with Theo next summer?