Pilot Holds Plane: Why I’m Willing to Wait

We’ve all waited impatiently for the color-coordinated family of four to come running from their connecting flight onto the plane we boarded 20 minutes ago, and we’ve all cursed the bus driver who closed the doors and pulled away from the stop as we sprinted along-side with five bags of groceries.  

So when is the right time to favor the compliant passengers on board and stick to the schedule, and when is the right time to cut the late guy a break?

India Train Queue

Last week a Southwest pilot graciously held full flight out of LAX to help Mark Dickinson reach dying grandson.  According to Elliot, the blog that broke the story, after two hours of baggage and security lines (TSA, is this out of control enough yet?), the grandfather of the murder-victim ended up at the gate 12 minutes late for his flight.  Thanks to a kind-hearted pilot (and Mark’s wife who called and asked the airline to hold the flight), the plane was there waiting for Mark when he arrived. The pilot remarked, “They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you.”

Tear-jerker, right? And who can argue that 12 minutes multiplied by the other 174 passengers (a little under 1.5 passenger days) isn’t time well spent to get a man to his dying grandson?  But who’s to say that sometimes the roles aren’t reversed.  The pilot probably wouldn’t have been so popular if he’d made the grandfather miss precious minutes with his grandson to wait for some joker who showed up to the airport late because he couldn’t be bothered to set an alarm.

Southwest Seatback

When you’re talking about people, you have no idea what 12 minutes translates to.  It could be a missed vacation of a lifetime for that family of four in the back of the plane or a few million dollars lost for the day trader in business class…Business Select as it may be.  In any case, I’m thankful to the pilot for reminding me that when we know what’s at stake for someone, it’s not a bad idea to try and help them.  When we don’t know, which is usually the case, maybe we should stop cursing the bus driver who left us at the curb or the pilot who won’t leave the gate, and we should start making the most of our 12 minutes.