Earlier this week Christopher Elliot reported a story that is one of those tear jerkers. I am sure most of you have read this story already, but for those of you who have not, go grab a handkerchief, because this is a story that you have to read.
In place of Elliott’s usual Monday “Can This Trip Be Saved” column (which by the way I think everyone should read) he posted a letter from a reader about how a Southwest Airlines’ pilot saved the trip for the Grandfather of a murdered child.
Elliott’s blog posted an email sent to him by Nancy, a regular reader of his blog. The email opens with a line that will rip the heart out of any parent or grandparent:
From there it goes on to explain how a Southwest Airlines’ pilot turned a stressful situation into a somewhat less stressful situation, as the email goes on to read:
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.
When he got there, the pilot of his plane and the ticketing agent both said, “Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson.”
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.
I don’t know any other airline that would have done this.
To most people 12 minutes is not a big deal, but to an airline pushing off a gate 12 minutes late is a big deal … especially to the operations of an airline like Southwest Airlines. With Southwest Airlines turning around many flights in just over 20 minutes from the time the cabin door opens until it closes again, 12 minutes is a very long time. For a Southwest Airlines plane to sit at the gate an extra 12 minutes means that is 12 minutes the ground crew can’t attend to another aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport, a major focus city for Southwest Airlines. 12 minutes means that the gate is occupied, potentially delaying another flight and the aircraft potentially getting delayed in its departure.
Many airlines would penalize pilots for unnecessarily delaying a flight … however Southwest Airlines has never been the same as most airlines, and the airline has publicly stated it is proud of its pilot’s decision.
I’d like to thank Christopher Elliott for writing a positive story about the airline and travel industry, even if the story is intertwined with the tragic events of a child’s murder. There simply aren’t enough positive stories to go around sometimes.
I’d also like to thank Southwest Airlines for showing that the heart logo painted on their aircraft is there because the airline really has a heart.