Flying the Friendly Skies

Air travel and airports are often everyone’s least favorite part of traveling. In this article we share several heartening stories of positive air travel in hopes of brightening your mood on the way to the airport .

When it comes to airline travel the news lately has been incredibly disheartening. There have been incidents of young girls being barred from flights simply for wearing leggings and adult travelers who have been physically dragged off planes for refusing to give up their seats on overbooked flights. These horror stories and others like them have been making headlines around the globe, causing some prospective travelers to rethink their planes. However, the media tends to focus on life’s more negative aspects. There are still plenty of good stories out there regarding airline employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help their passengers in one way or another. Here are some of their stories.


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Helping Parents

While Southwest is certainly to be commended for their recent decision to quit overbooking flights, there are still airlines that continue with this practice. However, this doesn’t mean they’re entirely heartless. There’s the Delta CEO who gave up his seat to a parent on an overbooked flight and sat in the jump seat for the rest of the trip. There’s also the FinnAir pilot who helped a mother traveling solo by holding one of her two infants on his lap so that the family could remain on the flight. In another instance, a mother needed an electric outlet so she could use her breast pump and feed her hungry kids. The crew responded by upgrading her to an empty seat in first class so that she would not only have access to one, she would also have more room as well. Finally, there’s the Southwest flight attendant who carted a squirmy infant around with her for a bit so that his parents would have a chance to eat their dinner.


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Providing Great Customer Service

Although it’s certainly not a customary procedure, airline companies will occasionally wave the fees for personal emergencies or poor weather conditions that require itinerary changes. There have even been instances of planes turning around to pick up people headed to funerals. In another instance, United had a flight wait for a man who was on his way to see his mother so that he could make it before she died. Southwest did the same for one of their passengers. This fellow was on his way to visit his grandson before the toddler was taken off life support. The three-year-old had been reportedly attacked by his mother’s boyfriend.

In less tragic news, a flight attendant on Thai Airways even went so far as to help a disabled patron eat his meal. Another attendant personally carried a handicapped guest when there were no wheelchairs available for her to use. That’s all in a normal day’s work. However, airline employees have even been known to be helpful under extenuating circumstance. When volcanic eruptions shutdown flights in and out of Europe several years ago, a group of people including a Delta regional manager came together to aid a stranded woman who had never traveled before after her daughter was unable to meet her.


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Returning Belongings

It’s one thing to turn items over to the lost and found. It’s another to go out of your way to make sure things get back home safely. Delta employees have even gone so far as to go dumpster diving to help  reunite a little boy with a missing item: the shirt of his recently deceased father. Then there’s the tale of the Southwest employees who helped a young girl obtain a replacement for her favorite doll after she misplaced it at the airport.  When an extensive search left them empty handed, they sent her a new one just like the one she lost.

Stuffed animals also tend to go missing with alarming regularity. This includes new ones as well as family heirlooms. Fortunately, British Airlines helped find the thirty-year-old teddy bear in question and bring it safely home to Britain from Argentina. However, it was a stuffed tiger that had the most fun while his owner was gone. The tiger ‘Hobbes’ was escorted around the Tampa airport by camera-wielding staff members before being returned to his six-year-old owner along with a photobook of his adventures.

Of course, it’s not just kids who lose things. There’s also the story of the guy who mislaid his Playboy magazine as he was exiting the plane. While he might have been glad not to have the flight attendant announce that he was leaving it behind, the incident probably amused the folks who overheard it.


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Coping With Emergencies

Babies are occasionally born on flights with the assistance of airline crews and any medical personnel that happen to be on board. Sometimes they’re even named for the flight attendants who help deliver them. Of course, onboard emergencies aren’t the only ones that happen in the course of a day. Airline employees have even helped save the lives of patrons who collapsed in their presence. One Air Canada flight even made an emergency landing in order to save the life of a passenger, a French bulldog, traveling in the cargo hold because the heating system had stopped working en route.

By now everyone has probably heard the story of how an Alaska Airlines flight attendant helped alert police to a young girl who was apparently in trouble, even if there’s been no word yet on how the case turned out. There have even flight attendants who have given their lives to protect others. One of these was a heroic young Indian woman. She initially hid passports to keep her American passengers from being recognized and subsequently executed by the terrorists who had taken over the flight. When it became clear that an evacuation was necessary, she stepped up to lead everyone out. The wounds she sustained protecting three children from the terrorists’ bullets cost her life.


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Dealing with Flight Delays

No one likes a flight delay but some situations are clearly worse than others. However, it always pays to be nice to the airline employees when you are faced with difficulties en route. Who knows? You might just get everything you need including complimentary food, hotel rooms, and additional tickets like this guy did. After all, there are still plenty of airline employees who are willing to go the extra mile to help their customers when such problems occur.

In one such instance, a group of Air Canada employees worked hard to get a group of Orthodox Jews who were affected by flight delays home before the Sabbath began. The tenants of their faith would have otherwise required them to wait an additional day before proceeding onward. Another heartwarming story is that of the JetBlue employee who actually drove a customer an hour and a half to an alternate airport when a delay caused her to miss the last flight back to her home city.

There’s even the much discussed tale of the WestJet pilot who took pity on some stranded Air Canada passengers. Due to the limited dining options that were available in the airport when they arrived, the pilot fed them all pizza that he had presumably bought with his own funds. Another couple rounds of pizza were likewise provided to five airplanes’ worth of passengers who had gotten sent to Columbia rather than Atlanta. 

Of course, there’s one thing that’s worse than being stuck in the airport for hours and that’s being stuck on the tarmac. However, no one could forget the crew who amused their passengers by making up a new rendition of “The Night Before Christmas” to help them cope with their delay. But we’re still laughing about the flight attendant who was apparently so glad to not be delayed by a major storm that she blasted music over the loudspeakers and danced down the aisles.


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Celebrating Special Occasions

Christmas is a popular time for people to do good deeds on behalf of others and airline companies are no exception to this rule. WestJet famously asked some of the passengers what they wanted for the holidays and then later surprised them with the presents in question. Santa has also boarded a couple of KML flights to hand out goodies to passengers. However, Christmas isn’t the only occasion to celebrate. When this Southwest pilot carried his millionth customer, he paid for her plane ticket. She also got a bottle of champagne and an autographed boarding card.

There are other special occasions that have been celebrated en route. In one of these, a couple’s chance meeting on an airplane turned into a proposal five years later. They naturally got an in-flight announcement and a big round of applause from their fellow passengers.  So did the dad-to-be whose wife asked the American Airlines crew to help her break the news. Although he hadn’t won anything in Vegas, he still had a prize waiting for him when he got home.

There was even a flight attendant who meet Taylor Swift’s dad and scored some autographed guitar picks. She decided to share her good luck with two of her customers. They decided to thank their flight attendant by challenging Southwest (her employer) to recognize her efforts. The end result was that everyone who happened to be there got some cookie cake and fond memories of that flight.


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Giving Back to the Community

There are plenty of airline employees who preform charitable acts and give back to their local communities. There’s an Indian engineer who has set up a program in a refurbished airplane that allows kids to experience what it is like to fly without ever leaving the ground. Meanwhile, United Airlines does an annual Christmas flight to an airplane hangar decorated like North Pole where Santa Claus passes out presents for children in need. A generous spirit is also alive and well at WestJet, a company that has made donations to local food pantries and given complimentary tickets to worthy families. JetBlue even gave out free flights to people who were willing to interact with their advertisement for a bit. Then there’s the Delta vice-president who took the time to correspond with an eight-year-old who had come up with an interesting new idea for helping locate lost planes. The boy additionally received some model planes and company related items in thanks for his creative contributions.


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Announcing the News

Aside from the random occasions that they forget where they are departing from or going to, the flight crew can be the source of some hilarious announcements. One of these includes a trip that had no first class passengers so the pilot decided to skip over that particular part of the announcements. He went ahead and let row “cockpits through toilets” board the plane.  There was another who decided to make light of the OJ Simpson trial that was sweeping the nation by announcing the flight crew as members of the case. Another announcement mentioned the “despicably priced” cocktails that were being served onboard, if you didn’t feel like taking advantage of the free soft drinks. There was also a pilot who apologized for the lights being off at Niagara Falls. He claimed to have spoken with the mayor about the whole situation while flying above it. Of course, it’s always nice to know that the emergency vehicles that have been appearing on the tarmac are not intend for your flight as this pilot made a point of announcing to everyone onboard.


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Making the Customers Smile

Even though a lot of people don’t enjoy in-flight meals, one customer reported that he was very happy to have been given an extra lunch and another mentioned that he was presented with free drinks on a flight. There was also the guy who requested tomato juice only to have the flight attendant offer to make him an apparently complimentary Bloody Mary instead. Another passenger reported that his electronics were damaged by wild children on one flight. He not only upgraded to first class but got his belongings replaced after speaking with the flight attendant. Of course, these folks will also be on hand to rescue you if you happen to get stuck in the bathroom.

There are other ways that airline crews go out of their way to make their customers smile. They might even fly around in a circle for a bit to give their passengers a chance to see an eclipse, like this EasyJet pilot did. There are also those crew members who have talked scared children through turbulent situations and invited the plane to give them a round of applause at the end of the flight like this Southwest attendant. However, even if your flight is stressful, the friendly therapy dogs at some airports are sure to be on hand to help you chill out.

Happy travels!