It was truly a captain’s call, and the action of an Etihad pilot in turning back his aircraft before take-off in a spirit of humanity has earned the carrier tremendous goodwill in Britain and beyond.
The pilot took the action so an elderly couple, bound for Australia, could get off the flight to visit their dying grandson in hospital. The couple had boarded the Abu Dhabi-bound aircraft at Britain’s Manchester Airport when they received a shock text message alerting them to their grandson’s critical condition, the BBC reported.
By then, the flight had left the gate and was already taxiing towards the runway for take-off, leaving the decision entirely up to the captain. When he heard the news, the kind-hearted Etihad pilot did not hesitate. He stopped the aircraft, turned it around and returned to the gate so the couple could retrieve their luggage and rush to be with their young grandson.
Tragically, the grandson died later the same night, but the airline’s action has not been forgotten.
The couple’s travel agent, Becky Stephenson, told the BBC that the incident on 30 March 2016 was “very unusual”.
“I’ve been in the travel business for 25 years and never heard of this happening,” she said.
Stephenson was full of praise for the airline’s action.
Moreover, Etihad have told the couple their ticket is still valid and they can use it again on a different date.
Written by Peter Needham