California man gets to see dying mother for last time after United Airlines holds up flight

A San Francisco man got to see his dying mother one last time at her bedside after United Airlines crews went above and beyond the call of duty to get him to his destination, more than 1,000 miles away.

On Jan. 24, Kerry Drake booked the earliest possible flight to Lubbock, Texas, after his brother informed him that their mother Dolores, 76, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, was dying.

Drake got on the plane, but heard that his flight was delayed – which risked his chances of making a connection flight from Houston to Lubbock that was scheduled to leave 40 minutes after he landed in Texas, reports.

“I knew that everything had to go right for me to make it home to say goodbye to my mom,” Drake told

Rahsaan Johnson, a spokesman for United Airlines, said Drake’s flight was delayed by weather after the aircraft -- which originated from Boston -- arrived late due to headwinds.

One United Airlines flight attendant said to Drake that they would do whatever they could, while another relayed his Lubbock flight number to the captain of the plane. Then, an operations manager in Houston and customer service, Johnson said, reached a decision: the plane would wait on the tarmac until Drake arrived.

“At that point, when I realized the kindness of the flight crew and that I had a chance to make it, I broke down in tears,” Drake said.

When Drake landed in Houston, he bolted out of the plane and ran to reach his connecting flight, fearing it may have left without him.

But when he reached the gate agent and saw that the plane was still there, he realized he made it, describing the situation as “complete relief.”

Johnson told that United tells employees that “being on time and safe are the highest priorities, but we also empower [them] to make decisions out of the box to help customers who have a special need like Mr. Drake’s.”

The other passengers on Drake’s Lubbock flight waited an extra 15-20 minutes for him to arrive, according to, but Drake was able to join his father at his mother’s bedside to witness her last hours.

“The flight attendants [had given] me additional United napkins to dry my tears, and when my mom actually died the next morning, I found myself wiping away tears with the United napkins I had stuffed in my pocket the night before,” he said.