When Kerry Drake found out his mother was dying from complications from rheumatoid arthritis, he booked the first flight he could from San Francisco to Lubbock, Texas. The only problem? There were no direct flights, and the United Airlines flights he booked only allowed for a 40 minute layover. On the first leg of his flight — from San Fran to Houston — Drake broke out in tears, devastated that he might not make his connecting flight and miss his chance to see his mother one last time.
Stewardesses noticed his tears and asked him what was wrong. He explained his dilemma, and then they did something amazing…
Heartened by his story, the stewardesses relayed Drake’s wish to the plane’s captain. He then radioed ahead to Drake’s connecting flight and told them that they absolutely had to wait for him.
“I was still like maybe 20 yards away when I heard the gate agent say, ‘Mr. Drake, we’ve been expecting you,’” he recalled. When he realized what had gone into making the flight delay for him, “I was overcome with emotion.”
But did he make it in time to say goodbye? “At one point she opened her eyes, and I think she recognized me,” said Drake. “Around 4 a.m. she had a real moment of coherence, a last rally, although we didn’t know it at the time. It was the last time.”
Drake’s mother died that night, but the experience of the flight crew rallying around him had a lasting impression. Drake wrote a letter to United, commending the airline for helping him with a difficult journey. “Had I missed my flight to Lubbock, I would not have been able to tell my mom goodbye,” Drake said. “When she died, I realized I was wiping away my tears with the extra United napkins that [stewardess] Sofia Lares had given me the day before.”
This isn’t the first time an airline has helped a family member say goodbye. In 2011, Southwest Airlines delayed a flight so that Mark Dickinson could board. Dickinson was on his way to Denver, Colorado to say goodbye to his dying 2-year-old grandson.
After hearing so many nightmare airline stories, it’s great to hear something heartwarming and positive.