Although airlines are usually known for being quite unaccommodating to their passenger’s schedules, one airline went above and beyond to make sure one man could make it to say goodbye to his mother before she passed away.
United saw Kerry Drake on Jan. 24 in tears as he thought about the possibility of not making it to his mother in time.
He was flying from San Francisco, and his flight was late arriving to its connecting point. His next flight was the last flight of the day going to Lubbock, Texas, so if he missed it, he would risk not seeing his mother for the last time.
“I knew this itinerary was a risk because the stopover in Houston was only about 40 minutes, and my connecting flight was the last flight to Lubbock that day,” Drake said. “But I needed to get there as soon as possible, so I took the risk.”
His United flight 667 was delayed half an hour taking off.
Flight attendant Sofia Lares noticed Drake crying and brought him extra napkins, promising to help him however she could.
Lan Chung, another flight attendant, asked him what his flight number was from Houston to Lubbock. He then told the captain who was trying to make up for lost time in the air in an attempt to help Drake arrive on time.
Unfortunately, his flight landed in Houston just as his second flight was set to leave the gate. He then lost all hope in making it to his mother’s bedside that day.
“As I was running up to the gate, the gate agent saw me coming and shouted, ‘Mr. Drake? We’ve been expecting you,’” he said. “That’s when I knew they had conspired to help me. She waved me onto the plane without looking at my boarding pass.”
United delayed that flight by 15 to 20 minutes just so Drake could get on. Because of this thoughtfulness, he was able to make it to Lubbock as scheduled along with his bags.
And it’s lucky he made it on time because if he had missed that flight, he would not have said goodbye to her.
“Had I missed my flight to Lubbock, I would not have been able to tell my mom goodbye,” Drake said.
Drake sat by his mother throughout the night. She opened her eyes once and recognized him, but then passed away on the morning of Jan. 25.
“When she died, I realized I was wiping away my tears with the extra United napkins that Sofia had given me the day before,” he said.
When he finally got himself together, he realized how much effort United put into making sure he arrived on time.
“I was overcome with emotion.”
He wrote out all of his emotions in a letter to United Airlines when he got home so that management would know that the flight attendants, pilots and baggage handlers did everything they could to help him.
“Our employees really worked together that day to help this customer,” spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said.