Whenever we write about public relations and airlines, it’s typically a frustrating analysis exploring how passengers are being nickel-and-dimed to death by dubious fees and practices while the companies themselves only earn 21 cents per passenger and struggle to stay in business.
Airlines and their customers have a tense and often combative relationship, making the airline industry a fertile category for PR experts—sort of like how geologists go to volcanoes to study the components of earth!
That said, it’s nice to encounter a story that involves the public and the airlines getting along. Kerry Drake needed to catch a connecting United Airlines flight in order to make it home in time to say a final goodbye to his beloved mother, whose death was imminent. His first flight was delayed, making it seemingly impossible for the San Francisco resident to arrive in Lubbock, Texas, in time to say a proper farewell. However, while desperately running to his connecting flight in Houston, he heard a United Airline gate agent announce, “Mr. Drake we’ve been expecting you.”
They waited for him. The plane. The captain. The crew. The passengers. The airline. The entire flight schedule.
His mom was dying. There is nothing more important to anyone than their mom. Everyone understood that. The flight attendants on Mr. Drake’s plane to Houston noticed his grief and tried to comfort him while relating his dire situation to the captain, who then radioed the circumstances ahead to the connecting flight.
It is important to remember the airline industry is uber-competitive and rigid, with entire careers depending on planes leaving on time and on schedule. For one person to buck the system is inspiring, for entire groups of employees to conspire to delay a plane for a bereaved man, is humbling.
The fuzzy public relations aspects to this event are obvious. Nothing resonates with human beings more than acts of kindness and humanity. Good work United Airlines. There. We said it.