customer experience, united airlines, air hostess

Amazingly shocking customer experience stories! (Part 2)

Written by Vivek Jaiswal | Co-founder, Customer Guru

Exceptional customer service by United Airlines!

Crew of United Airlines went above their call of duty when they delayed a flight to help a passenger say a final goodbye to his dying mother.

Sounds unreal, right? Here is the full story.

It was January 2013. Kerry Drake from San Francisco got a call from his brother informing him that his mother, who was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for decades, was breathing her last. Kerry went ahead and booked the first flight that he could to Lubbock, Texas. His connecting flight to Lubbock was via Houston, and it was the last for the day. He also had only a 40 minute stopover, but the circumstances demanded that he takes the risk.

Unfortunately, his first flight (United flight 667) was delayed by half hour. It goes without saying that Kerry was distraught. The extremely empathetic flight attendants brought him some napkins to wipe off his tears. They also conveyed the plight of the customer to the captain – passing on the details of his connecting flight. The captain, in turn radioed ahead the information apprising the Lubbock crew of the situation. This is when the crew of the connecting flight decided to delay the departure of the aircraft to ensure that Kerry would be able to board in time.

Kerry had been in panic-mode since, rushing to catch his second flight, when he heard the gate agent say, ‘Mr. Drake, we’ve been expecting you.’  It was only after he settled into the second flight, from Houston to Lubbock when he realised how much effort and coordination had gone into helping him board the plane. But that was not all! The Houston crew had also ensured that his luggage arrived in time.

With so many forces conspiring in helping him meet his mother, it is little wonder that Kerry reached the hospital, well in time to meet his mother. “At one point she opened her eyes, and I think she recognised me,” said Drake, who spent the night at the hospital. “Around 4 a.m. she had a real moment of coherence, a last rally, although we didn’t know it at the time. It was the last time.”

She died that morning.

Upon his return, Kerry ensured that he had written to the crew of United Airlines, expressing gratitude for their immense help and support.

Truly, this IS one of the most amazingly shocking stories of excellent customer experience! Don’t these kind of stories reinstate our faith in humankind? Do let us know if you have had such great service from an organisation. We’d love to publish it for you.


  • Swapna Nair

    This is truly amazing! Especially, in today’s times when the world is losing faith in humanity, it has become ever so important to reiterate such stories.

    • Vivek Jaiswal

      Thanks for the kind feedback, Swapna. Totally agree with you. In fact the biggest take away from this story is that of employee empowerment.
      Companies should incentivise employees to help customers. Instead, what we frequently see is powerless, intimidated front line employees who feel helpless when faced with “moment of truth” situations such as the one above; it wouldn’t have been possible to get Drake to his mother without the in-flight crew stepping up to the challenge.

  • Esther Diala

    Wow! This is so touching. Really kind of them.Good to know that there are still some people who are still humane.

    • Vivek Jaiswal

      Glad that you liked it!

  • Charles Kendig

    Great story of compassion for a customer that needed the very best that United Airlines had to offer. United has been under fire for some time now–fly the friendly skies was a theme that was view jokingly by many. However, as a frequent flyer, I have seen a marked change in the way I am treated as a customer. Whenever I deal with them, I get the sense that they are trying to make my experience an easy one and have worked hard to earn my loyalty. Sing the praises of those that represent their companies well. Good news can actually trump bad news if we take time to express appreciation to our service providers.