Delta pilot turns plane around to get Phoenix family to funeral in Tennessee

January 3, 2016
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Article originally appeared on Fox 2 Detroit

PHOENIX (KSAZ) – A random act of kindness was extended to a Phoenix family that nearly missed their flight to Tennessee — which would have meant missing their father’s funeral.

The pilot of the plane made an unprecedented decision after the plane had already pulled away from the gate.

It’s practically unheard of for a pilot of a plane that’s filled with passengers to throw the jet into reverse and go back to the gate to let a few stragglers on board, but that’s what a Delta Airlines pilot did for the family.  They had less than 10 minutes to catch the connecting flight and they were almost left behind.

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“I was just crying.. I couldn’t believe we were going to miss that flight and we are very, very thankful for those pilots,” said Nicole Wibel.

The Short family had the worst luck on their flight from Phoenix to Tennessee. They were on their way to bury their father, who lost his battle to cancer.  They faced 90 minute delay taking off from Sky Harbor Airport, which meant they had less than 10 minutes to catch their connecting flight in Minneapolis, which was the last flight out to Memphis that day.  Their father’s funeral was the following morning.

“It would’ve been sad not saying goodbye,” said Wibel.  “It would’ve been a hard thing to deal with.”

By the time the family got to the gate at the Minneapolis Airport, the jetway was pulling back and the plane was beginning to taxi toward the runway. Airline workers delivered the news.

“The lady got on the phone and said there was nothing they could do, that the tower wasn’t going to let them pull back in and my sisters and mom.. sitting there in tears and I’m screaming through the glass.. all of a sudden, another phone call,” said Rick Short.

He was screaming, crying and waving his hands in the window, trying to get the pilot’s attention — and he did.

The pilot tells FOX 10 he didn’t need words. He saw the tears, the sadness, the desperation on their faces and when he was told the family was on their way to their father’s funeral, the pilot did something unprecedented. He went back to let them on the plane.

“It’s very rare.. someone stops and does something so kind and we need more people like that in the world,” said Short.

An airline worker told the family it was solely the pilot’s decision to come back for them.

The family made it to Tennessee in time to lay their father to rest in his hometown, which was one of his last wishes.

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