“Mr. Degner,” the man began, “I’m Tom Fury. You probably don’t remember meeting me and my family back in November. We were going to Miami and the flight was overbooked.”
Jeff confessed that he couldn’t recall the occasion.
“You made an announcement asking for volunteers willing to give up their seats for free tickets and a later flight. My wife, Ann, went up to your desk and told you that the four of us – myself, my wife, our daughter Mariah, and our son Nathan – would be willing to go later.”
The story still didn’t ring a bell to Jeff.
“Well,” Tom went on, “we gave you our tickets but about fifteen minutes later, you came back and said that you wouldn’t need our seats after all.”
At this point, Jeff was still unsure where this former customer was going with his phone call.
Tom continued, “So you gave our tickets back and then you told us that you had upgraded our seats to first class as a way of showing gratitude for our willingness to be bumped. Now, I know that this was something you didn’t have to do – you could have just as easily left us with our original seats. Now do you remember us?”
“Yes, I think I do recall meeting you,” Jeff lied, “I’m glad you enjoyed those seats.”
“Oh, we did! That flight to Miami was wonderful,” Tom replied. “We were so excited. Ann and Mariah sat next to each other and Nathan and I were right across from them. We laughed and talked all the way to Florida. It was just fantastic.”
“I’m really glad that you and your family were happy with the seats, and thank you for taking the time to call …”
“There’s something more,” Tom said. Jeff noticed a sudden shift in the tone of his voice.
“Just after we got home from our vacation …” Jeff could hear the strain of tears and pain in Tom’s voice as he continued, “Nathan was out riding his bike and … the driver of the car didn’t even see …”
Tom couldn’t finish his sentence but Jeff knew what had happened. His eyes welled up as he waited in silence.
A moment later, the boy’s father went on, “That trip was the last trip the four of us were together. We’ll always remember that flight to Miami, all of us sitting in those first class seats. We were so happy and Nathan had so much fun. It meant so much to him. You helped make that time special, Mr. Degner. Ann and I just wanted to say how much we appreciate the gift you gave us.”
Jeff was speechless. He breathed in deeply and, somehow, he found words to express his sympathy for the tragedy and thanked Tom for sharing his story.
After they said goodbye, Jeff sat down and cried for this little boy and his grieving family. He hadn’t realized how much their upgrade had meant to them on their final trip with their son.