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Top 5 Airline Service Moments of 2012

Agent Searches Hundreds of Boxes for Lost Diplomas

WHO: Ernestine Martin, a United systems tracing center clerk in Houston.

WHAT HAPPENED: One day in early March, Scottsdale, Ariz. attorney Jorge Ramirez disembarked after a Continental flight, unaware that he had left a binder containing his graduate diplomas -- for his law degree and his master's degree -- on the airplane. When he realized his loss, he called United, distraught, but he found hope after speaking with Martin on the phone. For more than five weeks, Martin searched for the documents, often on her own time, going through the boxes in the Houston baggage center where United stores lost items from throughout its system. She would call Ramirez once or twice a week, letting him know she had not given up and that he should not give up either.

One day, after going through hundreds of boxes, she called with good news. "There are not enough words for me to express my gratitude towards Ms. Martin's efforts," Ramirez wrote, in a letter to United. "She makes flying with your airline a pleasure and she should be an example to all employees nationwide. In essence, the world would be a better place if we all put as much of our hearts into the things we do every day, as she did to help me recover my lost items."

As United's corporate communications department researched Martin's story, it received a letter from her supervisor, who wrote: "When we hired Ernie last year, she had been working at (the catering facility) for a couple of years making 1,000 sandwiches a day in the cold room (which I guess is about 45 degrees)

"She was so happy to come over and work with us where it's warmer," the supervisor wrote. "Working in our warehouse sorting through thousands of lost articles is not exactly glamorous but she never loses sight of the fact she can make a real difference to our customers."

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