Pilot Turns Plane Around So Elderly Couple Can Say Goodbye to Their Dying Grandson

They were already onboard when they got the news of their grandson's life-threatening illness.

Africa Studio/Shutterstock, Tofe Allen/Shutterstock

As an elderly couple was about to shut their phones off onboard a flight to Australia via Abu Dhabi, they noticed a missed call from their son-in-law. The plane was already starting to roll forward on the runway when they saw the text: Their grandson was in intensive care with a serious illness. If they didn’t get back soon, they might miss their chance to say goodbye.

The couple got the attention of the Etihad Airways crew, who rushed to tell the pilot. Instead of shrugging off their pleas to stay on schedule, the kindhearted pilot turned the plane back around to the Manchester Airport gate.

From there, the rest of the staff jumped in to get them home as fast as possible. Some collected their bags and helped the couple through the airport, while others brought their car to arrivals so the grandparents could head straight home. The airline said they could use their tickets another time.

“I’ve been in the travel business for 25 years and never heard of this happening,” the couple’s travel agent, Becky Stephenson, told the BBC.

The boy passed away the next day, when his grandparents would have been in Australia, but they reached his bedside in time to say goodbye.

“They never in a million years expected the crew to go so far for them,” Stephenson told The Independent. “You shudder to think what would have happened if they hadn’t been able to get off the plane.”

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Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.