I’m really angry at myself today. Every now then then life brings past you the opportunity to step outside the box and do the right thing – sometimes this requires a little thinking, sometimes it requires to you step outside the group-think. Today I failed that test, and I’m disappointed and annoyed at myself.

Let me explain.

I’m in the middle of a Los Angeles layover, and as I often do caught the crew bus from the Long Beach Hotel our airline stays at to South Coast Shopping Plaza this morning. The bus leaves the hotel at 10am and usually leaves the shopping center at 2pm to return.

This day the bus was extremely full (over full in fact) with crew reading, chatting and listening to music on the way. As we pulled into the shopping center, Miguel the bus driver asked us about the pickup time. Since I was behind him in the second row I asked Miguel what the options were. He said One or Two o’Clock. I called back to the Crew in the bus “Guys – pickup time : One or Two O’clock.” The response was overwhelming One.

Kath one of our FM’s in the front row next to Miguel was listening to her iPod and didn’t hear the question, her ears full of the rock music that was so loud we’d commented on it during the ride – despite the noise of the bus and the crew, in the row behind her we could hear her music. I leaned forward and said to her “Kath – One or Two o’clock pickup?” ?- and got no response. Someone commented “Well, I guess that makes it One O’Clock Then!” and we laughed. We all got out of the bus and dispersed into the shopping center. I don’t think any of us noted that Kath never really heard the change of pickup time. Miguel, sitting next to her, didn’t realise this either and later on was sure he’d mentioned it to her directly. Apparently not.

Well you can guess what happened later on. The bus came at one and we were all there except Kath. We quickly realised what had happened waited fifteen minutes to see if she was going to turn up.

Thinking back, at this point we a couple of very good options.

– We could have waited until 2pm. None of us had planned on the early pickup, so One shouldn’t have been onerous.

– We could have a taken collection (as it turns out about $6 each) and left someone behind to wait for Kath and ride back in a taxi with her.

Miguel advised he had the afternoon free, but didn’t commit to another pickup – despite our assumption to the contrary. And so off we went. Thinking about it – it was one of those group-think decisions where everyone else seems set on invading Poland, so we should probably just go along with it. At no time did someone say “Do we really want to abandon our crew member to an expensive taxi ride, rather than _____ or _____ ?” I suspect had any of us really stopped to analyse what was about to happen, we would have done something different. We didn’t, we just sort of … left.

Conversely, had I personally have taken the lead that I should have (I was “Senior” on the bus as a Captain in the airline) then for very little individual cost (time or money) the result would have been an overwhelmingly positive one – All the crew on the bus putting themselves out for another crew member. Another day at V.

One reason I am so annoyed at myself, is that in the past I have always tried to extend my role as the leader of a team on the plane to the fullest of it’s logical extent on a layover, including supporting crew who are down route but not on my flight. This role naturally devolves to the Flight Manager, but I have always considered myself responsible as well for my crew down ?route. In the past this has meant taking crew to Doctors and Hospitals and staying with them until they’re sorted, chasing up paperwork and ensuring company involvement and ongoing crew support handover in such situations, sorting out tickets and rosters when family?tragedy?has struck while crew are away. I’ve always been pleased and proud of my involvement in these situations in the past.

Instead …

I bumped into Kath in the foyer this afternoon. She was extremely upset, to the point of being tearful. The Hotel had refused any possibility of collecting her; the taxi fare had cost her $75, although I think much of her distress was at?being?abandoned by her?colleagues. I comforted her as best I could, we had a sit and a chat. After I left her I went away to think about things, and wrote her a note of apology, along with a contribution to the cost of her taxi fare, and slipped it under her door. I’m fairly confident that when the crew find out that she was forced to take a taxi they will also contribute. None of those on the bus today were bad people, just … leaderless.