United Pilot’s Good Deed Saves Passengers Getting Stranded

A United Airlines pilot came to the rescue for four passengers that were about to be stranded at Chicago O’ Hare International Airport last night. The boarding gate had closed while they tried to make the last flight. However, the captain spotted the frustrated group just before departing and ordered the gate to be reopened.

United Boeing 737-900
The pilot make a quick call just before taking off. Photo: United Airlines

Disruptive journey

View from the Wing reports that Washington Post national political correspondent Jenna Johnson had quite an eventful trek to Washington D.C. from Las Vegas. After temporarily wrapping up her work duties in Nevada, she wanted to surprise her husband who wasn’t expecting to see her till next month.

The journalist had a one-day gap in her assignment following the period of presidential campaigning, so she wanted to make the most out of the short break. Therefore, she booked a flight to Washington Dulles from Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport.


However, President Donald Trump was in town for the camapaign and the roads leading to the airport terminal were closed. This forced Johnson to wait 90 minutes on a shuttle to the hub, causing her to miss her flight.


Finding a way

Thereafter, United rebooked the reporter on another service that connects to Dulles via Chicago. In another moment of bad luck, a mechanical issue caused the flight to also be delayed. Altogether, this took two hours to sort out.

United Boeing 737-900(ER)
It was a couple of hours before United got its flight underway. Photo: United Airlines

During the frustration, some passengers started to argue with each other. Meanwhile, others couldn’t take the sitting around any longer and left the aircraft.


Finally, the plane departed before landing in Chicago at 21:10. Johnson exited Gate C19 and had to make her way to Gate C15 for the flight to Dulles that was about to depart at 21:15. Therefore, she rapidly ran across the distance of four gates only to find that the door had already closed.

This was the final flight of the night to Dulles and Johnson was coming to terms with her failed surprise. As she phoned her husband to tell him of her attempt, there was a twist of fate for the passenger.

An agent came running and informed her that the gate had been reopened. Johnson was confused yet ecstatic as she could make her way to see her husband after all.

United Airlines Fleet
United tried to help the disrupted passengers make their way to their intended destinations. Photo: Getty Images

Captain’s call

Johnson took to Twitter to share her frustrating experience, which led to a story that restores some faith in humanity. The positive outcome was the result of a United captain that felt it was his team’s duty to get Johnson and three of the other stranded travelers to their destination.

“We ran back to the gate, where the pilot was waiting,” Johnson posted on her Twitter account, shared by View from the Wing.

“From the cockpit, he had seen four stranded travelers and, knowing that it was the last flight of the night, decided to not leave us behind. “It’s our job to get you where you’re going,” he kept saying.”

United Airlines Pilots
The United crew went the extra mile to help the firm’s customers. Photo: Getty Images

Making all the difference

We reached out to United for comment on the events that unfolded. A spokesperson informed us that it is the Chicago-based carrier’s mission to offer a great experience for its customers, no matter where they are on their journey.

“Our goal is to provide great service for our customers throughout their entire journey, both on the ground and in the air,” the spokesperson informed Simple Flying. “We’re glad that we were able to assist these passengers in getting to their destination and look forward to having the opportunity to welcome them back soon,” 

It’s great to see airline crew members use their initiative when it comes to these situations. Companies often become obsessed with following various sets of procedures, not allowing any room for exceptions.

However, this wasn’t the case with the United employees on this particular journey as they all tried to help her despite the obstacles that came her way. Altogether, Johnson’s husband must be so happy to unexpectedly see his wife, especially during this harsh winter season.

What are your thoughts on how the pilot took action? Let us know what you think in the comment section.


Leave a Reply

newest oldest most voted

This captain did an amazing thing. Well done!!!


What a kind crew. To them, their job is not all about flight plans and procedures, but also about the passengers they are flying. Good job.


“temporarily wrapping up her work duties in Nevada, she wanted to surprise her husband.”
Could’ve lead to flagrante delicto.


Kudos to the united airlines staffs and the PILOT!

Daniel Baglietto Seymour

Well Done to the United Airlines Crew you are an example to the rest.

Mark Thompson

Good thing she wasn’t and Asian doctor. They would have beat her instead.


I remember their 1965 onwards tag-line, “Fly the Friendly Skies”. Seems their crew still apply it even if marketing & some of their management doesn’t. Good to hear!

Debbie Althouse

I have found that there are many more stories like this that aren’t viewed as news worthy as the “bad” incidents so we don’t hear them. Way to go United !!! Hi you got me as a customer for life……

Say With Straight-Face

Great job! Reminded me of the old Northwest Airlines at the Detroit Airport in the evenings.

RH Hastings

I missed a United long haul flight out of LHR in the late 90’s on business. Door had just shut! a week or so before Christmas. Delayed by late code share airline and taking the ridiculously slow inter-terminal bus around the b****s of that airport from T1 (that snake-tube of a terminal now gone). No crew came to my aid.

To my amazement and continued frustration the United Red Carpet Club lounge personnel actually said, “we’re sorry sir, there are no flights out til after Christmas,” in a couple of weeks. Holy smokes, “Really?” “No, no flights.” Had to demand the manager assist getting an indirect flight that day. Made it, albeit a few hours longer.

That was United then. Oh such memories. Oh, on another occasion United kicked me off a flight for another passenger who arrived late. Did that reporter pay full fare? The flight attendant wasn’t kind… a demanding sort.

Oh such memories flying with the Friendly Skies.


While the Pilots should be commended, shame on United for putting everyone in a bad situation.

Cornelia Crashcog

From my experience with present-day United, the pilots will probably be disciplined for holding up a flight.


A Captain performing like a real Captain should! The holy grail of exact ontime departures is damaging to any airline’s reputation. I’m sure there’s ways to show an ontime departure that experienced crews used to do……????


Shame the gate agents were not empowered to make this decision. Can you imagine them even attempting to tell the captain to hold the flight!

Boo Broman

Good thing to take care of the customers

Steven Fenwick

Fantastic I might even think about flying with United on my travels.


Re-opening a gate for WAPO personnel. Vote Bernie!

Fuji Dancer

Well done, Captain.
One has to be at the receiving end of such a nice gesture to appreciate it fully. Years ago, when my children were toddlers, we finally arrived at the gate to see the aircraft being pushed back. The flight was a weekly service and we were going on holiday. The Captain noticed us, halted the push-back and got the bridge to be re-positioned for us to board the flight. We were overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.


friendly skies!!!