I flew American Airlines from Miami to Chicago this morning. While seated in the MIA boarding area, I noticed a properly dressed elderly gentleman wearing his wool ivy cap and silver Christian Orthodox Cross. He was small in stature, but his neatly trimmed white beard and the sparkle in his eyes made him larger than life.
He was with an uniformed AA flight attendant. Their animated conversation was punctuated with smiles. The gentleman, in his 90's, had enough spirit and energy to fill the entire boarding area. Everyone noticed him and his attentive AA escort. It was clear that AA wanted to take special care of this passenger and assigned their top meet-and-greet ambassador to the task.
When it was time to board, the flight attendant and the gentleman walked arm-in-arm down the jet way as the flight crew stood in the doorway of the aircraft humming Mendelssohn's wedding march. The elderly gentleman was beaming.
As we stowed our carry-on luggage, another passenger noticed the elderly gentleman and his escort were heading for the coach cabin. This passenger asked one of the flight attendants working the flight if first-class was full. When he learned there was an empty seat next to him, he asked to upgrade the elderly gentleman using his miles. Within minutes, the elderly gentleman sat comfortably in seat 1A.
While on the way to Chicago the flight attendant escorting the gentleman left her coach seat to make sure her companion was comfortable. The gentleman told her he needed to use the lavatory and as she held him to steady him as he left his seat and move toward the lavatory, they broke into a brief tango dance step.
When the gentleman's escort returned to her seat I told her they should consider a "Dancing With the Stars" appearance. I also praised her for taking such good and attentive care of the gentleman.
This was when I learned she was an off-duty flight attendant who was deadheading to Chicago. She had seen the gentleman at the MIA security checkpoint. He was from Chile, alone, confused, and spoke no English. The off-duty flight attendant spoke Spanish and helped the gentleman through security. Good Karma placed them on the same flight. The traveler, who gave his miles and sat next to the elderly gentleman was a total stranger.
When we landed at ORD, the off-duty flight attendant called the Chilean gentleman's family and arranged to meet them at bottom of the escalators leading to baggage claim.
I've collected many travel stories during the past 35 years, but the opportunity to witness this amount of kindness and caring among perfect strangers places today's story at the top of my list.