For all the times you’ve rushed over to make a connecting flight, only to see the plane pulling away from the gate with no chance of you magically being on it, there’s this story, which is enough to make even the most cynical traveler feel a bit better about our fellow humans: A flight heading from Tel Aviv to New York City actually turned back to its gate to pick up an 11-year-old cancer patient.
The Times of Israel says the girl had been removed from the El Al flight after she couldn’t find her passport. She and a group of other Israeli children battling cancer were heading to a summer camp for young patients in New York. But after going through a pre-flight medical examination and settling into their seats, a staff member started collecting passports and came up short in the count by one.
“No one could find [her] passport,” explained the director of the program that’s been bringing such kids to the U.S. for decades. “Our staff looked high and low, in and under every seat and seat pocket. No passport was found. The flight attendants immediately called the ground crew to help them locate the lost passport. The airport was alerted, and they too searched everywhere from the boarding gate to the El Al aircraft.”
The plane had to depart and the passport was still on the lam. There was no choice but to tell the little girl she couldn’t fly, as the crew finally gave up the search for the missing item.
“Everyone was in shock, no one knew what to do,” said another witness. “Taking a little girl off a flight is unheard of, and especially when that girl is sick and has already endured enough hardship. The airline personnel had tears in their eyes. They approached [her] in the terminal. They bought her water, cried with her.”
But just as the plane approached the runway, a hue and a cry went up: Her passport had been found in another child’s backpack. While surely many pilots would depart anyway, those at the flight controls instead spent 15 minutes communicating with the control tower, ground crew and El Al’s offices to figure out what to do.
After half an hour, the pilots turned the plane around and went back to pick up the young girl.
“Her dream came true!” said the program’s director. ”Those of us on the plane experienced something as well. Instead of the hostility that usually greets a plane delay, there were cheers and tears on that El Al plane, flight 007. Passengers and crew shared [her] happiness and excitement.”
“Planes rarely return to the gate after departing,” said El Al in a statement. “The plane was on its way to the runway, when the passport was found on the plane. After consulting with El Al crew on the plane and El Al staff at the airport the decision was made and the plane returned to pick up Inbar. El Al was honored and proud to help Inbar’s dream to go to the camp in the USA come true. We wish [the girl] full recovery and health.”
*Thanks for the tip, D.G.!
Plane turns back to get cancer patient [Times of Israel]