United Airlines holds flight for man rushing home to say goodbye to dying mother

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

United Airlines recently held the connecting flight for a passenger trying to get home to his dying mother.

The exceptional service earned the airline the Elliot Award for Excellent Customer Service.

Kerry Drake was trying to get from San Francisco, California, to Lubbock, Texas, to see his mother before she died.

To get there, he had to catch a connecting flight in Houston.

"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," he said. "But I needed to get there as soon as possible, so I took the risk."

Unfortunately for the hurried passenger, his San Francisco flight, Flight 667, was delayed, making his connecting flight seemingly impossible to make.

Flight attendants aboard the San Francisco flight, Sofia Lares and Lan Chung, did their best to comfort Drake — and relayed the number of the connecting flight to the captain.

By the time Flight 667 landed, the connecting flight should have left the gate already. But it hadn't.

United Airlines had held the flight for him — and even ensured his luggage made the connecting flight, too.

"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."

"Had I missed my flight to Lubbock, I would not have been able to tell my mom goodbye," Drake added. "When she died, I realized I was wiping away my tears with the extra United napkins that Sofia [the flight attendant] had given me the day before."

In December, JetBlue went above and beyond for one of its passengers: a mother from Newtown, Connecticut, anxious to get home to her children in the wake of the shooting tragedy. The pilot even offered to drive the woman home after they landed.