There are few things in life, if any, harder than losing a loved one. I simply cannot imagine the pain of losing the one you loved most. For one widow who recently lost her spouse, United Airlines made the loss just a little less painful.
We didn’t hear much about in the news, but on February 23, 2019, Atlas Flight 3591 went down in Texas. The Boeing 767 was transporting goods for Amazon from Miami to Houston and all three pilots onboard perished. One of the pilots, Sean Archuleta, was a Mesa/United Express pilot, who had simply hitched a ride on this flight to get to Houston.
The Pilot Wife Life blog shared the story of Archuleta. Fun-loving and kind. Caring and giving. And also a recent hire of United Airlines. He was set to being his “indoc class” (training) next week, having “graduated” to mainline.
In what can only be described as an incredible gesture, United presented Archuleta’s widow with UAL wings and epaulets during a special in-flight ceremony.
A United pilot, identified as Captain Gunn, shared the account:
An update regarding Captain Sean Archuleta. He was the jumpseat rider on the prime Atlas/Prime Air crash who had a class date to begin at United, this week I believe. I operated flight 1009 to Bogota on Friday March 1st. Prior to heading to the airport, I was contacted by the IAH Chief Pilot and informed that his widow would be on our flight returning to Colombia where she currently lives. He asked if I could deliver a package to her from United. Of course I agreed to help in any way that I could. United had her booked in First Class and escorted her to the Polaris Club before the flight with plans for a personal escort to the airplane for departure. I coordinated to have her escorted to the plane and be in her seat about 5 minutes prior to general boarding. His wife Titania speaks only Spanish and although I speak some Spanish it’s definitely not conversational. I offered my condolences on behalf of United Airlines and all United pilots. The circumstances were difficult especially considering that I had never met her. I delivered a stack of condolence cards form both United and Mesa Airlines (his current employer) as well as a set of United wings and Epaulets. She was a very lovely lady but she broke down when I gave her the wings/epaulets. It was clearly very emotional for her to receive the wings. However, I could tell that she was very moved and it meant a great deal to her. Through the interpretation of the flight attendant, she told me that she would save these for her children to see and so that they would know that he was a United pilot. I simply said that it would have been a pleasure and and honor to fly with her husband. She thanked me and told me that United had been very good to her and that she was grateful for their support. It appears that United stepped up and treated her with respect and helped an already tragic situation.
But United took it one step even further. On March 12th, Archuleta’s United training would have begun. United will leave his seat empty in honor of him.
Having served in the military, I understand how close-knit relationships can be that are united by a common uniform. The same is true in the airline industry. Here, United Airlines took the classy step of honoring a “brother” even though his work had not yet begun. It’s a touching reminder that life is fleeting but love and compassion are real.
image: The Pilot Wife Life // H/T: reader 121Pilot