Picture this: You’re boarding a plane that’s flying from Jacksonville, Florida, to Chicago, Illinois. Essentially, you’re journeying away from the land of balmy temperatures to the nation’s very own Windy City.
To make matters more challenging, you’re undertaking this trek in late November, and the northern regions have already experienced early winter snowstorms and freezing conditions.
This would be a fairly tough adjustment for almost any airline passenger. So most of us can hardly imagine what it might be like for someone in their 80s or 90s.
Recently, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz encountered an elderly passenger on one of his company’s own aircraft. What he did next is making headlines in the most heartwarming way.
Bay Area frequent flyer Rebecca Kuchar Krutz actually witnessed the entire incident. She immediately posted her inspired reaction on Facebook, then recounted her favorable impressions to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Though Krutz normally flies via competitor Delta Air Lines, she recently found herself at United’s Jacksonville gate while traveling. She also couldn’t help but hear the chatter and din typically created by an excited crowd of animated passengers.
As it turns out, those passengers were trying to snap selfies with Munoz before boarding. They recognized him from his numerous public photos and media appearances.
Krutz herself couldn’t actually place Munoz immediately. She asked a gentleman nearby, who explained the executive’s CEO stature.
But Krutz certainly noticed what Munoz chose to do next. She explained that he stepped away from the admiring circle to acknowledge an elderly passenger seated a few yards away.
Krutz said that the woman was likely in her late 80s or early 90s. The Facebook post said that “she didn’t appear to be in great health, and had a bit of a hard time with her speech.”
After Munoz had greeted the woman warmly, he quickly chatted with staffers at the gate. Then, when everyone boarded the plane, he proceeded to take an aisle seat in the economy area.
Due to seasonal storm delays at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the plane was packed to capacity. But when the elderly passenger made her way on board, she settled herself comfortably in first class.
Krutz immediately realized that Munoz had arranged to swap his own seat with that of this fragile senior citizen. Since Krutz herself was seated directly behind the woman in first class, she took a few discreet cell phone snapshots.
Krutz also noted that Munoz stopped in first class before heading toward his new economy seat. He wanted to check on this lady’s welfare, to make sure she was doing all right before takeoff.
As she glanced through her photos later, Krutz marveled at the empathy on display. “You can clearly see the kindness and sincerity in his face as he speaks to her while walking back to his seat,” she said.
After the plane landed, Krutz heard the elderly woman expressing gratitude to a fellow passenger. According to Krutz, the frail flyer said “she had been very nervous” to travel so far, and that “she couldn’t believe the kindness of Oscar, giving up his seat in first class just for her.”
Krutz noted in her Facebook post that this selfless act might have just turned her into a loyal United customer for life. As she wrote in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, “if even half of the people on this earth could behave in such a way, the world would be a much better place.”
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