Pilot Holds Plane for Grieving Grandfather

In this culture of airline fury, a nice story about air travel might seem like a desert mirage for many of us, but for one grieving grandfather from Denver, Colorado, it was very real, indeed.

It seems like the only news stories we ever read about airlines are about how they are failing us. We are being groped by TSA agents, left sitting on the tarmac for 11 miserable hours in a snowstorm, and subject to public humiliation. Sometimes it seems like airlines take the "our way or the highway" attitude to new heights (get it?).

Of course, amidst all this horror, an occasional bright spot may appear -- the TSA agent who actually smiles or the flight attendant who offers your child an extra bag of pretzels when she sees you struggling. But even these are small comforts, nothing major. Well, a Southwest Airlines pilot at LAX just blew them all out of the water.


A grandfather traveling on business in LA received horrific news this week -- his 3-year-old grandson had been murdered. What happened next is nothing short of miraculous.

In order to get home to his daughter, the man rushed through the airport, but was stymied at every point. His wife told ConsumerTraveler.com the story:

In LAX, the lines to both check a bag and get through security were exceptional. He got to the airport two hours early and was still late getting to his plane.

Every step of the way, he’s on the verge of tears and trying to get assistance from both TSA and Southwest employees to get to his plane on time.

According to him, everyone he talked to couldn’t have cared less. When he was done with security, he grabbed his computer bag, shoes, and belt and ran to his terminal in his stocking feet.

This part, of course, is not surprising. The day after my grandfather died, I tried to change a plane ticket to attend his funeral. I called Delta Airlines and the woman on the phone was about as rude and cold as she could be. "Your grandfather's death really does not change the fact that you owe our ticket change fee," she told me, ordering me to pay the $400 even as my voice quivered and I started to sob.

Nice lady. So, this part, we know. The TSA (and most airline employees) are not hired for their compassion and they would treat a man grieving for his toddler grandson in exactly the same rude manner that they would treat anyone. But this story is not about them.

Needless to say, the man was 12 minutes late to the gate. In airline speak, 12 minutes might as well be 12 hours. Once they shut that gate, you have a better chance of having tantric sex with Sting than actually getting onto your plane. But one pilot wasn't having it and this man is my new hero.

The pilot held the plane that was supposed to take off at 11:50 until 12:02 when my husband got there.

As my husband walked down the Jetway with the pilot, he said, “I can’t thank you enough for this.”

The pilot responded with, “They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

My husband was able to take his first deep breath of the day.

To me, this guy is right up there with Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III, the amazing pilot who landed his plane on the Hudson. Twelve minutes is the time it takes a plane to taxi to the runway. It's the time it takes to put all your bags in the overhead compartment, buckle your seat belt, and turn off your iPhone. To an airline, 12 minutes is jet fuel and money and risking the wrath of disgruntled passengers.

But this pilot put all that aside and helped one man on the worst day of his entire life. And that one act of kindness gives me hope. Not only for the airlines, but also for the country as a whole.

Does this story give you hope, too?


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