Compassion in the Air

We hear so many stories about the horrors of travel, but we never hear about compassion in the air.  I must admit that in a recent series of flights that I took, I was amazed by the amount of caring shown by those that served us on the flights.  Nevertheless, this story blew me away.

It starts with a tragic happening when a 2 year old was allegedly murdered by the mother’s live-in-boyfriend.  The child is on life support and they have scheduled a time to pull the plug.  The mother calls her dad and asks him to come and be there when it happened.  Mark Dickenson made his plans and arrived at the airport in Los Angeles.

The security line was rather long and even though Mr. Dickenson arrived in plenty of time, he was going to miss his flight because of security.  He explained the situation to TSA officials, who told him to remain in line regardless of what happened.  It was what happened after that, that makes this story terrific.

Dickenson finally made it through security and made it to the gate 12 minutes after his flight was scheduled to leave.  He fully expected that he was going to miss the flight and would miss his opportunity to be at his daughter’s side.  Imagine his surprise when he was met by the pilot of the plane who waited at the gate.  When the pilot greeted him, he expressed his sorrow at the loss of this man’s grandson and informed him that they held the plane just for him.  The Southwest pilot went on to tell the man that, “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.”

While that won’t do much for Southwest’s on-time ratings for that particular flight, I have to say that it kind of makes me want to fly Southwest more often.  In a world where compassion is in short supply, this unnamed pilot has shown that there can be care and concern when flying takes place.  I can’t imagine that any of Mr. Dickenson’s fellow passengers would have begrudged him the opportunity to be at his grandson’s bedside for this last moment of a tragic situation to bring comfort to a grieving daughter.

My own experience with flying involved someone that collapsed in flight.  The flight attendents were right there and calmly knew what to do.  For many of us on the flight, I’m not sure we minded the late drink service and we definitely wouldn’t have minded if we had to divert for this person.  Fortunately, that didn’t have to happen.

Hats off to this Southwest Airlines pilot who knows what customer service means.  Not only does it mean service with a smile, but compassion in a time of family tragedy.