‘Mr. Drake? We’ve been expecting you’
March 6, 2013 4:54 PM   Subscribe

United Airlines holds plane so passenger can say goodbye to his dying mother. Kerry Drake broke down when it seemed he would miss the last flight to Lubbock, Texas, where his mother lay dying. Then something that an airline watchdog says "almost never happens," happened. Also on CNN.
posted by KevinSkomsvold (45 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I fell into a sinkhole once and a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 dove in and saved me. Before I could thank it, it told me to "keep climbing" and flew off into the night.
posted by Redfield at 5:09 PM on March 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


Ironic twist: Because of that delay, a passenger on the same flight arrived five minutes too late to say goodbye to his dying mother.
posted by Atom Eyes at 5:09 PM on March 6, 2013 [34 favorites]


Didn't this happen last year too? A very similar story?
posted by discopolo at 5:10 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Discopolo: Is this the one you're thinking of?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:13 PM on March 6, 2013


Is Metafilter simply incapable of reading a sentimental and touching - but true - story and accepting it without having to ridicule it, create "ironic" counterfactuals, and point out how the story is redundant of another instance of the same expression of human caring, as if we were criticizing a movie of the week? Can we please stop trying so hard to be cool and jaded? Christ.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:20 PM on March 6, 2013 [92 favorites]


Shouldn't the tag be unitedairlines?
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:22 PM on March 6, 2013


Those times when you have seen only one set of footprints? That is when United Airlines flight 667 carried you.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:24 PM on March 6, 2013 [49 favorites]


That was nice of United.
posted by Atreides at 5:26 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This warms my heart.

Particularly because I'm a frequent flyer and 1K on United and I'd say that, especially in the past year, their service is 75% suck.
posted by donovan at 5:29 PM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had something similar done for me by, of all the airlines in the world, Aeroflot in Moscow.

I was arriving on a domestic flight from another Russian town and taking an international one out. Those who know Sheremetyevo airport and the traffic around it will know what a nightmare it can be. My arriving flight was late, and the traffic was a mess (no inter-terminal bus for some reason at the time).

The Aeroflot crew on my domestic flight sent a message through, and they held up the international one for me. I ran through the terminal to the closed check-in counter, but they had checked me in already (remember, this was an international flight) and one of their staff members was there with my boarding pass. She then ran alongside me as we rushed through passport control and security. My heavy suitcase was taken in as cabin luggage even though it was far beyond the size/weight restrictions because they had closed the baggage handling for the flight a long time ago. They had upgraded me to business class, as I discovered when I stepped in. The door was shut behind me immediately before I could even thank their staff member, and we took off almost immediately.

I wrote a long letter of thanks for all the crew and staff later, which is the least I could do for them, considering that they made sure that I didn't miss my own wedding.

Nothing on the scale of the OP story though. A wedding can always be rescheduled.
posted by vidur at 5:29 PM on March 6, 2013 [33 favorites]


discopolo, I'm sorry I made assumptions about your motives and assumed you were trying to say this post was redundant, etc.; I see you were just trying to point out how this wonderful sort of story has happened before, and that the more often such wonderful things happen, the better. Thanks for your link. The rest of you guys should really call your mother and tell her you love her.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:39 PM on March 6, 2013


Shouldn't the tag be unitedairlines?

Thanks ceribus. I went ahead an changed it.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:43 PM on March 6, 2013


It's a shame that "airline acts human" is the new "man bites dog", but still, nice story.
posted by uosuaq at 5:48 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ironic twist: Because of that delay, a passenger on the same flight arrived five minutes too late to say goodbye to his dying mother.

Hyperironic twist: Those guys had the same mother. (whut)
posted by 23skidoo at 5:48 PM on March 6, 2013


This made me pull up that Sharon Olds poem.
posted by Fichereader at 5:52 PM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Previously on Metafilter.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:56 PM on March 6, 2013


in recent years I have been pretty disenchanted with United (my long term frequent flyer airline) but now...I'm feeling pretty warm n fuzzy about them. they don't completely suck, apparently :)
posted by supermedusa at 6:00 PM on March 6, 2013


Nice to hear about good people doing kind things for others. Thanks...

And, what JimInLoganSquare said...
posted by HuronBob at 6:00 PM on March 6, 2013


>Is Metafilter simply incapable of reading a sentimental and touching - but true - story and accepting it without having to ridicule it,

Would you really prefer a thread in which we all just agreed that Being Nice Is Good? Surely it's possible to be glad that the guy got to say goodbye to his mother, and still be amused by some witty commentary?
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:17 PM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


My mother was in France dying due to ovarian cancer and I was given the news that she was probably not going to make it through the night. I had a flight booked from San Francisco to Paris and a car booked for the ~6 hour drive from Paris to the hospital.

I cancelled the flight. There was no way on earth I could stay sane while on a transatlantic flight wondering if she'd be alive when I stepped off the plane.

I'd just seen her two weeks before. We kind of said our goodbyes then but I really wanted to be with her.

To this day I don't know if canceling was the best decision I could have made or the worst. But it's done now.

I'm glad Kerry Drake managed to make it and the airline was able to make it happen.
posted by schwa at 6:19 PM on March 6, 2013


I try to play devil's advocate to myself as much as possible, so while this gave me a sad smile I did think about the possibility that some other person on the flight could have been in a similar situation, and might have been desperately distressed that the flight didn't leave on time. This sort of thing is why I try to make every goodbye as sincere as I want my Goodbyes to be.
posted by lucidium at 6:24 PM on March 6, 2013


"If you feel the need to thank me, the next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out."
posted by Asimo at 6:47 PM on March 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have seriously decided no longer to fly. Once in queue to the line you are no longer a citizen. You no longer have rights. Once you have flown you are less than chattel. Even 150 miles inland you are nothing. I hate every story like this because it's predicated on the idea that somewhere, some human decides to be a human. Good for them/him/her.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:59 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those times when you have seen only one set of footprints? That is when United Airlines flight 667 carried you.

Wouldn't that be zero footprints?
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:03 PM on March 6, 2013


schwa, I think you did fine. That manic itinerary was not what you or she needed you to be doing at that difficult moment.
posted by spbmp at 7:24 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


That awkward moment when you begin crying during an AP test.
posted by obviousresistance at 7:24 PM on March 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


Those times when you have seen only one set of footprints? That is when United Airlines flight 667 carried you.

Wouldn't that be zero footprints?


That's the goal, apparently.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:26 PM on March 6, 2013


I experienced United Airlines holding a flight for me back in 2007, when flying from Savannah, GA to Phoenix, AR with a connection through DC. My flight leaving Savannah was over an hour late, so by the time we landed in DC I was convinced they had already left the gate, but I went there anyways, so I could book another flight for the next day. When I arrived at the gate, the agent asked me if I had come from Savannah as she opened up the doors to board the plane. It was a pretty great way to start Thanksgiving break, let me tell you.
posted by ruhroh at 7:43 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was flying back home from my grandmother's funeral, on the same Delta flight as my sister and my brother-in-law, our flight was delayed due to mechanical problems and when we finally landed it was minutes before our connecting flight was scheduled to take off. I was sitting in a different section of the plane than my sister and her husband and was able to get off the plane long before they were, and I realized, as I ran to the gate, that I was going to make it on the flight and they were not. So I said something to the people at the gate like "Mysisteriscomingweareflyinghomefromfuneralsheisveryupsetpleasecanyoudosomething" and the crew held the plane for them. It was only for a few minutes, but I thought it was very decent of the flight crew to do.
posted by BlueJae at 7:47 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I often have done a flight path of major route -> airport -> small route in terrible weather (going to Deer Lake, Newfoundland from Ottawa/Toronto via Halifax), usually in the evening/night. I'm assuming that's why this type of story doesn't really surprise me? It's pretty standard procedure for the first airplane, delayed, to talk to the intermediate airport, who will hold the later flight. It helps that there's usually a 10%+ group of people that all need this connection, but nobody ever seems put out by it, because we've all been there.

I understand rationally that it is a much bigger deal when it's a hub->hub flight, but emotionally this is just "yeah, it's what you do."
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:53 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy shit Sharon Olds is good at what she does.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:45 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can we please stop trying so hard to be cool and jaded?

I was about to agree with you until I saw the ad for Monkey Bread inline with the blog post.

I clicked it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:24 PM on March 6, 2013


Someone once opened the boarding door for me, and I was just commuting. Thanks again, Mr. Ambrose.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:33 PM on March 6, 2013


I once had a flight held for me, and my mother isn't even dead yet. OK, for me and about six other passengers.

We got a fun ride on a couple of those electric carts.
posted by dhartung at 10:05 PM on March 6, 2013


Can we please stop trying so hard to be cool and jaded?

Come now. We're not trying; we simply are this cool and jaded.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:22 AM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I met my father-in-law for the first time at his funeral service. The 67 year old had been killed a week earlier on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound when the brakes failed on his scooter and he kissed a telephone pole. His girlfriend who was riding on the back survived with minor injuries. It was a little bit ironic in that the scooter was the first motorbike he had bought in what became a lifetime passion for motorcycles. His regular ride was a bright yellow Fatboy - the same one that my wife learned to ride on.

Well anyway, Jim's ashes laid in the closet for quite some time. He had been a Naval reserve officer for 25 or 30 years, a Captain, and had told the family that he wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery and it took a little time to work out the details. Once set, we flew to Seattle, picked up the urn, and then flew to New York. It was a few weeks after 911 and we left Jim with the concierge while we had a look around lower Manhattan. We wanted to give him a last little road trip before putting him into the ground. We hired a car and drove down to DC.

Stay with me, here's where this starts to make sense. Sort of.

The Captain had been single forever and had a long string of ex-girlfriends the last of which was riding on the scooter with him when he died. Of course we invite her to the ceremony and of course she accepts. But this woman had a few screws loose and became wildly jealous after the funeral service when she met quite of few of these ex-girlfriends who came to pay their respects.

This made it complicated for us to invite the Captain's closest friend, let's call her Mary. Mary really wanted to be at that funeral. But she's cool and she understood the problem and so she calls a local DC videographer and arranges for him to video the ceremony with her standing in has his assistant. I had never met Mary and I wasn't sure if the current girlfriend would recognize her and well it promised to be an interesting afternoon.

So it's a nice May afternoon and here I am sitting on the lawn with my wife and her dad's girlfriend and this woman's daughter at Arlington National Ceremony. And Mary and the videographer standing right next to us. The caisson arrives, the rifles are fired, Taps is played, the flag is folded. Those people do a good job. Mary's acting job was perfect. She never let on. And all goes off without a hitch.

Later that evening my wife and I meet for drinks with Mary. She's three sheets to the wind. "Do you know I almost missed my flight this morning?" she stammers out. "Do you know that I ran - literally ran like OJ through the airport - and they had already closed the door to the aircraft." She says "I was in a panic. The gate attendant said there was nothing they could do." And I could believe that because she looked quite shaken as she was telling us this story. "I told the gate attendant that I was on my way to a funeral at Arlington National and that I had to make that flight." The gate attendant relays the message to the pilot, the pilot himself a veteran, opens the door for her and when she got on the plane he made a nice announcement explaining the reason for the delay and the whole cabin applauded.

She says that she arrived at the videographer's place a complete wreck but managed to pull herself together for the ceremony.

"How'd I do?"

"Perfect," I replied, "Nice to meet you by the way."
posted by three blind mice at 1:06 AM on March 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


This thing with holding flights seems to happen more often than I had imagined. I do not fly very much but can relate to that feeling of helplessness once you hand over your ticket. I'd never expect that a major airline would do something like this. These are some very nice stories.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:50 AM on March 7, 2013


United just experienced a cluster of badness, so they're trying a bit harder right now
posted by effugas at 3:16 AM on March 7, 2013


Can we please stop trying so hard to be cool and jaded? Christ.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 1:20 AM on March 7


I don't have to try at all. Well, apart from the "cool" part.
posted by Decani at 3:28 AM on March 7, 2013


I'm betting this was one hundred percent the captain's doing and I wouldn't have been surprised if United was originally going to punish him for it, then decided not to for PR reasons. I've worked for them, human decency is not that company's strong point.
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:09 AM on March 7, 2013


I have seriously decided no longer to fly. Once in queue to the line you are no longer a citizen. You no longer have rights. Once you have flown you are less than chattel. Even 150 miles inland you are nothing.

Cool story, bro.
posted by atrazine at 5:00 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was on a United flight recently that the pilot held to wait for an unaccompanied minor on a delayed connecting flight, so it seems like they've been trying to be a little more compassionate lately. It's not a trivial thing to hold a plane for any length of time, especially if it's busy or there's bad weather - you could lose your departure slot and be stuck at the airport for a lot longer than you were planning, other planes are waiting to use the gate you're currently holding up, delays start cascading.

And really, my personal feeling is that going in to an airport with the mindset of "all you fuckers are just out to fuck me today" is counterproductive. Getting thousands of flights and millions of passengers a day in and out of our national airspace safely and (mostly) on time is an amazing feat of logistics and human effort. The people you interact with at check-in, at security, and at the gate are, in fact, human beings that appreciate being treated nicely just as much as you do.

I travel a lot for work and while there have certainly been delays and screwups that have given me a little heartburn I have never failed to get at least a little bit of help from airline employees with nothing more than a smile and a please-and-thank-you. Going in buns blazing is not going to make anyone sympathetic, and really, if an employee tells me that there's nothing they can do I generally believe them - no one's out to deliberately screw you.

And seriously, put some real pants on in the airport. Those yoga pants make you look like a slob.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:40 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


“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 Sofia had given me the day before.”

Man, product placement is getting really invasive these days.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:47 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, heck, when my mom died, I was there sitting in her skilled care room with her all day while my brother and sister tried to get there to say goodbye. They didn't get there. I got to have all the joy of watching her go through Cheyne-Stokes breathing, and eating the Christmas cookies the staff brought by for us. Being there to say goodbye is somewhat over-rated in my opinion. Be there to say hello instead.
posted by Peach at 6:26 AM on March 9, 2013


Man, product placement is getting really invasive these days.

Wait till people start talking about how their constipation was eased by TSA glove lube.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:13 PM on March 9, 2013


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