United Delays Plane So Passenger Can Reach Dying Mother

United Airlines halts plane

Talk about customer service. United Airlines made sure a man’s connecting flight was held on the runway so that he wouldn’t miss it when his first flight was already delayed. Sounds extreme, but this was a special case: The man only had a few hours to see his dying mother one last time.

Kerry Drake of San Francisco feared the worst when his first flight was delayed. He broke down in tears, believing that he would miss his connecting flight and not make it to Lubbock, Texas in time to see his dying mother. The crew on the United flight consoled him and ensured him that they would do everything within their power to help.

Drake only had about 40 minutes between flights, and his connection to Lubbock was the last of the day. The flight attendants offered him napkins for his tears and took his flight information down. They brought it to the captain, who radioed ahead to keep the connecting flight on the tarmac until Drake arrived.

“I was still like maybe 20 yards away when I heard the gate agent say, ‘Mr. Drake, we’ve been expecting you,’ ” he said.

Everything went off without a hitch, and even Drake’s luggage made it on time. He managed to reach the hospital and see his mother before she passed away.

“At one point she opened her eyes, and I think she recognized me,” recalled Drake, who spent the night at the hospital. “Around 4am she had a real moment of coherence, a last rally, although we didn’t know it at the time. It was the last time.” She died that morning.

Drake wrote to United Airlines to make sure that everyone who helped him was thanked. “Our employees really worked together that day to help this customer,” said Megan McCarthy, a United spokeswoman.

“When the crew on this flight heard about this distraught passenger trying to make his connection, they must have said, ‘To hell with it,'” wrote Christopher Elliott, who originally covered the story on his website. “And they made the right call.”