Sometimes traveling by air can be as predictable as a game of roulette, and that is exactly what Jessie Frank’s journey to get to her daughter’s end-of-summer camp gathering was like – unpredictable. After the weather, flight cancellations and mechanical problems threw a wrench in her plans, Frank found herself in a predicament in Washington, D.C., but Delta CEO Richard Anderson stepped in to change Frank’s luck.
Frank was the eighth person on a waiting list for the last flight from D.C. to Atlanta and after the seven passengers in front of her were called to board, Frank had all but given up hope of making it to her daughter’s gathering. As a mom, I know the frustration Frank felt. Although a gathering at a summer camp may not sound like a big deal to some, these are the kinds of events that I want to share with my children.
Thankfully for Frank, the Delta CEO was booked on the same flight. Frank opted to give up his seat so that Frank could make it to Atlanta. Instead of waiting for another flight, Anderson decided to sit in a jump seat in the cockpit. Not your typical CEO digs, but the whole event was atypical.
On June 17, Frank posted an open letter to Anderson on her Facebook page:
“I was 8th on the standby list, showing 0 seats left. I was about to give up, but the counter agent stopped me from leaving. He called 7 names… and then, finally, I was the last to be called. As we rushed down the jetway, the flight attendant at the plane shook her head – not a good sign – but then paused, talked to someone, and waved us down anyway. A vaguely familiar face met me at the doorway, not in uniform so probably an off-duty pilot I had seen before. He quickly grabbed my roll-aboard, helped clear a space in the overhead, and showed me to my seat.
It was important for me to get home – not important enough to tell anyone – but Friday I was to pick up my Type 1 Diabetic 12 year old from her diabetes summer camp. I’m sure she would have been fine if someone else had shown up in my place, but it’s a special moment for me. Camp Kudzu gives my daughter 5 days a year when she feels “normal.” Pick-up day gives me a glimpse into that special world where she’s just like everyone else, and she’s a little bit of a different person for the rest of the day. By the next day, it’s back to the harsh realities of managing a difficult, deadly, incurable disease that kills 1 in 20 before the age of 18. Most people just don’t understand how different it is from regular diabetes.
As the plane descended into Atlanta, the flight attendant announced that there was a special guest on board. He was riding in a jump seat, because he had given up his place to allow one more person on that flight. That special guest was you: Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta.”
Anderson didn’t have to give up his seat; no one would have chastised the CEO for flying home in his designated seat. Instead, he chose to do the right thing, not only as the CEO of the airline but it was also the right thing to do as a human being.
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