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American Airlines - Back-Office Customer Service Team of the Year

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2019, Click to Enter The 2020 Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service

Company: American Airlines, Ft. Worth, TX
Company Description: American Airlines and American Eagle offer an average of nearly 6,700 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in more than 50 countries. American has hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. Connect with American on Twitter @AmericanAir and at Facebook.com/AmericanAirlines.
Nomination Category: Customer Service & Call Center Awards Team Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Back-Office Customer Service Team of the Year - All Other Industries

Nomination Title: American Airlines Entry - Sea turtles for Marlee

Tell the story about what this nominated team achieved since the beginning of July 2017 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes: REDACTED FOR PUBLICATION

A selfless act of kindness, a love of sea turtles and a dad’s special request all converged to make for a special summer vacation sendoff for a young cancer patient named Marlee.

The events unfolded when American Airlines Customer Relations team member Maria Verkruijsse read an email from customer Will Beck. The message was brief – a request for a special favor. Maria called Mr. Beck for more information and learned that his 12-year-old daughter, Meghan, has terminal cancer and was not reacting well to strong chemo treatments. He said Meghan was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but instead of accepting something for herself, she wanted all the sick children at her hospital to receive a bear from the Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Since she gave up her wish to give to others, her parents decided to treat Meghan, along with sister Mary, 16, to a Premium Class trip to Maui. Mr. Beck was hoping American Airlines could somehow help make the occasion even more memorable, and Maria, whose son is the same age as Maria, set out to do just that.

“I knew I had to do something. I was so touched by the fact that she was so selfless and kind,” Maria said.

Mr. Beck mentioned that his daughter loved sea turtles, which is why they were going to Hawaii. He also shared that Mary was having a hard time dealing with her sister’s illness. Maria decided she would purchase stuffed sea turtles, bracelets and other items to send to both girls. She contacted her supervisor, CSM Eric Sagal, to coordinate getting the items to the girls. She also filled in Mr. Beck.

“I wanted to send you an email to let you know that we are working on something special for Meghan and Mary,” she said. “We are getting in contact with LAX so you can expect something on your connecting flight to Hawaii.”

Eric worked with the American Airlines team at the Los Angeles airport (LAX) to get the items to the family. Not only did the airport team deliver the goodies, they also set up an island-themed buffet at the gate, and decorated the jet bridge for Meghan and her family.

“What they did for her blew my mind,” Maria said.

She followed up with Mr. Beck after the family returned from Hawaii, asking about their vacation and their experience at LAX.
“It was fantastic,” Mr. Beck wrote back. “We could not have asked for anything more. You and your team made our trip a very memorable experience!!!!” He added that he had not seen Meghan smile like that in a long time.

“I believe this type of effort from the team is so very important as the dad had stated this was probably going to be Meghan’s last trip,” Eric said. “Maria felt it was vital that we do something special for them. She made the connection with the sea turtles and knew that would be a great memory for both Meghan and her sister to have and cherish.”

Customer Relations Senior Manager Vincent Carcaterra said, “Customer Relations team members have one of the toughest jobs in the industry in trying to regain trust that has been broken in some way. Despite that, employees like Maria go above and beyond because they see an opportunity to touch lives and can leverage the resources we have as a company to make a difference.”

“Speaking to them before arrangements are in place for these special situations, I can tell you the furthest thing from their mind is the recognition, our department or even branding American Airlines,” Vince added.  “It’s about the human feeling and wanting to make a positive difference in someone’s life, even if it only lasts a few moments.  We all have that power in American Airlines Customers Relations, and that’s why I’m extremely proud and grateful to be a part of this wonderful and caring team.”