A pilot who turned back a plane preparing to take off at Manchester Airport so a couple could say goodbye to their dying grandson has been praised as “truly amazing”.
Becky Stephenson, a travel agent from Bradford, said two of her customers were preparing to set off for Australia via Abu Dhabi when they received the news that the boy was seriously ill.
She told The Independent they had already boarded the Etihad Airways flight and were switching off their mobile phone when they noticed a missed call from their son-in-law.
“They were taxiing on the runway when they got the text message saying their grandson was in intensive care and they needed to get there,” Mrs Stephenson said.
“They passed the message to the crew, who spoke to the captain and he turned the plane back.”
The pilot returned the aircraft to the boarding gate while staff arranged to get the couple’s baggage and assist them back through the airport and collect their car so they could drive straight home.
Their grandson died the following day, 31 March, when the passengers were scheduled to be arriving in Australia.
Mrs Stephenson said the couple, who did not wish to be named, were grateful to have had the chance to say goodbye to their grandson.
“They are so happy,” she added. “They never in a million years expected to the crew to go so far for them.
“You shudder to think what would have happened if they hadn’t been able to get off the plane.”
The travel agent wrote a post thanking the airline in a Facebook group, where the pilot was praised by commenters as “truly amazing” according to the Travel Mole website.
Etihad are reportedly allowing the couple to re-use the tickets for a future trip to Australia, where they have relatives.
The airline has not yet responded to The Independent’s request for a comment.
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