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Southwest Airlines Pilot Helps Bereaved Grandfather Make Plane

By Bridget Tyler on January 19th, 2011

Air travel this winter has been a nightmare.  With storms brewing across the country delaying flights and causing massive pileups at airports, making it through security to your flight is dicey, much less making connections or reaching your destination on time.  But, for one grandfather traveling this January, being late just wasn’t an option.  Consumer advocate blogger, Chris Elliot, heard this story from one of his readers and decided to share it with the world.

Nancy, a frequent reader of Elliot’s blog, had received horrible news the day before she wrote to Elliot.  Her three year old grandson had been murdered by his mother’s live in boyfriend in Denver.  The child was going to be taken off life support the next day, at which point his organs would be donated immediately.  Her husband was in Los Angeles on business, so Nancy and his company went to work to figure out how to get him to Denver in time to be with his daughter when the plug was pulled.

He arrived for his Southwest flight two hours early, but delays at the baggage check and security lines were quickly making it obvious that he wasn’t going to make his flight.  Despite his best efforts to make it through slow moving security lines, it was several minutes after his plane’s scheduled departure time when her husband Mark dashed up to his gate, not having bothered to put his shoes and belt back on after finally clearing security.

But, instead of the closed gate he expected to see, Mark found the pilot of the plane and the ticketing agent were waiting for him at the gate.

“Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson,” the pilot reportedly said. “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.”

The flight took of thirteen minutes late, a delay that the pilot, and Southwest, could have been heavily fined for by the busy airport.  According to Elliot, most airlines would have punished a pilot for holding up a plane, but when he called Southwest for comment, they told him they were proud of their pilot.  Whether or not another airline might have said the same thing, it’s always nice to see concern for profit be put on hold for the sake of simple human kindness.

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