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The Tale of the Southwest Pilot with a Heart Goes Viral, Internationally

January 19, 2011 at 2:16 PM | by | ()

Grandfather Mark Dickinson was in Los Angeles on business when he received the tragic news that his 3-year old grandson had been the victim of an unspeakable murder, as the victim, a baby, was about to get taken off life-support. He rushed to LAX to catch a Southwest flight so he could be with the child a last time and comfort his daughter. But—because LAX is an aggravating mix of slow-moving security theater minus any security, where TSA agents quite literally have God complexes and often make a point of not making exceptions—two hours weren't enough. He begged to get rushed through the checkpoint but received no help from airport employees, and he only got through security after his plane was supposed to have taken off.

Then the strangest thing happened. A basic act of human decency, coupled with just a little bit of independent thought, ended with him making the flight after all.

When Dickinson got to the gate, still in his socks since he had sprinted across the terminal, he was shocked to see that the plane door was still open. He was then met by the pilot and the ticketing agent, who said that they had held the flight for him and were sorry for his loss. The pilot then explained a bit more, noting that he had simply declined to get on the plane and move it away from the gate, and expressed his regrets again.

Apparently Dickinson's wife had called Southwest and asked them to hold the plane, and their employees responded by acting like human beings. The final delay was only around 12 minutes, but as airline journalist Christopher Elliott noted when he broke the story, that's an eternity for any airline, especially for the hyper-efficient Southwest.

But the company is sticking by its pilot, saying they're proud of him for doing the right thing. Meanwhile the story has gone international, a trend to which we're only too happy to contribute. The pilot acted exactly the way we like all airline employees to act, mixing professional responsibilities with a bit of common sense and then acting appropriately. Southwest responded in exactly the way we want all airlines to act, backing that decision.

Very, very well done guys.

[Photo: Michael Nutt / Wiki Commons]

Related Stories:
· Southwest Airlines pilot holds plane for murder victim’s family [Elliot.com]
· Airport Security [Jaunted]
· Airport News [Jaunted]

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