A Delta pilot turned his plane around that was taxiing toward takeoff in order to pick up a Phoenix mom and her children who were on their way to a funeral for the family’s father. The extraordinary move by the Delta Airline pilot on the tarmac at the Minneapolis Airport – returning a plane to the gate – is unusual in the airline industry, and is being praised as a true act of kindness and decency.
Reports ABC News on Dec. 31: “The family ran into a problem familiar to many travelers – a flight delay – on their way to Tennessee. The family was headed to the funeral of Jay W. Short, a 56-year-old husband and father of three who died on Dec. 16 after losing a battle to lung cancer about five months after being diagnosed.”
Delta’s gate employees insisted there was nothing they could do, despite Marcia Short and her children’s sobbing pleas. An hour and a half delay in the family’s flight from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport meant that when they arrived in Minneapolis for their connecting flight to Memphis, they only had seven minutes to board the plane. Jay Short’s funeral was scheduled for the following morning, and the flight they missed was the last outbound plane to Memphis until the next day.
“My son and I are waving our arms at the pilots and the ground crew as my two daughters are crying their eyes out. We are pleading for them to not take off,” recounted Marcia. “If we did not get on that flight we would miss the funeral. We had to get to Memphis.”
Added Jay’s daughter Nicole Short-Wibel, “This was our last chance to say goodbye to my dad and if we missed the flight we would have missed the funeral.”
Incredibly, Capt. Adam Cohen, a pilot for Endeavor Air, a regional carrier owned by Delta, saw the family in the airport windows frantically screaming and crying. He called into the gate to see what was happening. After being advised of the situation, Cohen turned the plane around and returned to the gate – despite the importance placed on departure times, scheduling and security once a plane has left the jetway.
Adds Fox10Phoenix.com: “The pilot tells FOX 10 he didn’t need words. He saw the tears, the sadness, the desperation on their faces and when he was told the family was on their way to their father’s funeral, the pilot did something unprecedented. He went back to let them on the plane.”
A Delta spokesperson praised Cohen’s decision: “This Endeavor Air pilot’s decision to return to the gate in this special circumstance is a great reflection of the human touch we want all Delta customers to experience when flying with us.”
Cohen spoke about what the decision meant to Delta, and to him personally. “This is something we’ll take with us, knowing we made a difference,” he said, according to ABC News. “Little moments like this to us are big to these customers and keep them coming back to Delta, but at the end of the day, it also keeps us going.”
“When the phone rang at the desk and she said it was the pilot who insisted on bringing that plane back to the gate to let us on more tears came,” Nicole said. “But these ones were happy tears.”