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Delta CEO gives up seat for struggling mom

June 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM ET

Delta CEO Richard Anderson
Mary Altaffer / AP
Delta airlines CEO Richard Anderson speaks during a news conference inside the new Delta terminal 4 at JFK airport, Friday, May 24, 2013 in New York.

Jessie Frank was having one of those nightmare travel days.

Earlier this month, she was heading home to Atlanta to pick up her 12-year-old daughter from diabetes summer camp. But a string of weather delays, flight cancellations and a mechanical failure landed Frank at a Washington, D.C., airport instead.

As she wrote in an open letter to Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson posted on her Facebook page, despite the “calm, kind, diligent [and] funny” efforts of multiple Delta employees who tried to help her, at 9:30 p.m. she thought she’d miss the last flight to Atlanta – and the chance to share an end-of-camp experience with her daughter, who has Type I diabetes – because hers was the eighth name on the standby list for a very overbooked flight.

Somehow, flight attendants found room for the first seven people on the list and, just as Frank was about to give up, the gate agent called her name and rushed her down the jet bridge.

“A vaguely familiar face met me at the doorway, not in uniform so probably an off-duty pilot I had seen before,” Frank wrote in Facebook post. “He quickly grabbed my roll-aboard, helped clear a space in the overhead, and showed me to my seat.”

Only when the plane landed in Atlanta did flight attendants tell Frank and the rest of the passengers that there was very special guest passenger on the plane, Delta CEO Richard Anderson. He had been the one who had helped Frank aboard and swapped his cabin seat for a jump seat in the cockpit to make room.

“You… did all that for me, just an average, middle-aged, woman…,” Frank wrote in a gushing open thank-you letter to Anderson. “As a result of your leadership and the actions of yourself and your employees, I had my special day with my special child.”

The feel-good story has been making the rounds in the media and Frank’s Facebook post has been shared more than 1,750 times.

Reached for comment, Delta Air Lines confirmed the story but wouldn't comment further, saying the story stands on its own.

Find more by Harriet Baskas on StuckatTheAirport.comand follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas.

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