Immediately after the Willens received the call that no parent wants to get – your child is missing – it was decided that Todd and his brother Brad would head for New Zealand. International travel on short notice is difficult at best, but the people of Air New Zealand went beyond typical customer service in handling Todd and Brad’s travel. After a frustrating attempt at booking a flight from Cleveland to Los Angeles ended in failure, a  fortunate phone call to Air New Zealand put Todd in touch with Desiree Hiscox, a sales consultant with the airlines. Frustration quickly turned into gratitude: When made aware of the situation, Desiree enlisted all the resources at her disposal to not only ensure that Todd and Brad made it to New Zealand as quickly as possible, but that they had support and comfort every step of the way. Desiree simply states she did what she did “from one parent to another.”

In an email to Air New Zealand’s CEO, Christopher Luxon, Todd expressed his deep appreciation. He wrote, I had no idea how important this relationship was going to be for me.  I can not find the words to express the amount of gratitude I have for what she did and how she did it. Her level of care went well beyond any “customer” experience I have ever had. 

Todd continues, [Booking the travel] was only the beginning. Desiree literally held our hands the entire trip. There were several phone calls and text messages from her checking in on us. In the most remarkable way, Desiree had someone by our side, guiding us, assisting us and offering their support the entire trip.  From the team in each of the Star Alliance lounges (thank you) to each and every member of the flight crews – we were offered a caring and supportive hand. Desiree made sure of it. We spent about 11 days on the South Island between Wanaka and Dunedin. The entire time Desiree stayed in close contact.     

On the return to the US, Todd once again turned to Desiree for help. Getting Ally back to the US quickly would’ve been close to impossible without Desiree’s assistance. Again, from his email to Luxon Todd explains, Desiree outlined the events that would take place and guided us each step of the way. She made sure we were guided home.  She worked with your amazing Cargo division who helped us achieve the unachievable,” he said.  “In the most horrific moments of my life, Desiree Hiscox was my guardian angel.   Along her side so many other members of the ANZ family took time to help, support and comfort us. They did it with such a caring, tender, loving and professional hand.  Both my brother and I were in total awe at the level of care provided to us. The ability for your team to communicate with each other so perfectly and the quality of each person we met is the highest level we have ever experienced in any company or industry.

The Willens made a donation to the Wanaka LandSAR Search and Rescue team in honor of Desiree and others on the airline’s staff. In response, Mr. Luxon thanked them on behalf of his employees and wrote these kind words, “Not many people embrace life so fully and with so much energy as Ally obviously did in her 20 years. You must be so incredibly proud of her.”

“I would just like to say thank you for reminding me of my core values and how many lives I touch in this position I have and might I add  love,” said Desiree. “Ally’s Legacy of touching so many lives still lives on. Through the company she has just touched another 11 thousand peoples lives, and I can assure you by the amount of emails I have received alone it was felt that a very special person has been taken from this earth.”

Other Air New Zealand employees whose efforts richly deserve mention in addition to Desiree:

  • Michelle Coyle – and the entire flight crew that escorted us from LAX to Auckland (Sunday April 25 / NZ5   Los Angeles to Auckland)
  • Anastasia Jenking, Matt Halford, Alice Kiss and “Ruth” who escorted us from the gate in Auckland to the Star Alliance lounge
  • Karen Wells – Cargo – who assisted in getting us home 3 or 4 days before the funeral people said was possible.  (another Air New Zealand hero!)
  • The entire flight crew on the return trip  (Tuesday May 5 / NZ2  Auckland to Los Angeles). Names were not available.