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Good Samaritans Offer Up Airline Seats to Soldiers

Aired November 7, 2003 - 15:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Steve Meadows was headed to Nashville. And he had a meeting to get to and he was feeling a little bit anxious. We can all relate to that.
But not as anxious as the 22 soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division who were hanging out around him. Now, these guys were coming home from a long deployment in Iraq, home for a little R&R, and they were on standby. Now, Steve decide he wasn't in such a hurry after all. So what happened next? Well, let's talk to Steve about that.

Good to have you with us.

STEVE MEADOWS, AIRLINE TRAVELER: I'm glad to be here.

O'BRIEN: You decided to forsake your seat, which meant a significant amount of inconvenience to you. How did you get the idea and what happened after you decided to do that?

MEADOWS: Well, I had the opportunity to sit next to a young soldier, 101st, going back home. He related that he had a seventh- month-old daughter that he hasn't ever seen.

O'BRIEN: Wow.

MEADOWS: And in talking with him, I found out that he was riding standby. And it was a booked flight. And there was no way he was going to get on that flight. And I also found out that he only had 14 days before he had to go back.

O'BRIEN: And it didn't matter how long he waited. It's not like he got that time on the back end, right?

MEADOWS: No. No.

And the last thing I wanted this poor guy to do is sit in an airport waiting to see his family. And so I had the idea. Hey, look, I got a seat on this flight. Let's give it to this young guy, so he can go home and see his family, see his daughter he's never met. I went to Delta ticket counter, spoke to the agent. The agent says, we really can't do it. There's not enough time left.

We asked the supervisor to come in. The supervisor listened to us. My understanding is, he talked to the captain of the plane. The captain says, hey, look, if this is the cause, we'll delay the flight and we'll get this guy on board.

O'BRIEN: Wow.

MEADOWS: So we got this guy on board. He borrowed my cell phone. He called his wife and he says, honey, I'll be home in 45 minutes. And he welled up in tears.

O'BRIEN: Wow. Wow. Fantastic.

MEADOWS: What was really amazing, that's just the beginning of the story. I did nothing special. I'm just one of many.

Behind me came this young lady, who says, I want to give my ticket back, let this soldier get on, and another and another. My understanding is, the captain made an announcement to the passengers already on board. We had people to get off that flight to give their seat up.

(CROSSTALK)

MEADOWS: The flight was late leaving, but they got every soldier on board.

O'BRIEN: And so every soldier didn't have to wait. All those that got off had to wait at least six hours, as I understand it.

MEADOWS: That's correct.

O'BRIEN: Whatever you were doing, your employment, as important as it was, you felt, not as important as their appointment with their families.

MEADOWS: Exactly. It was just an honor to do so.

O'BRIEN: It's such a touching thing and it's such a spontaneous thing. And there are so many attaboys to go around. But you've got to give the airline credit. This is a tough business they're in. Late departures are a bad thing.

(CROSSTALK)

MEADOWS: Delta came through. I fly Delta two or three times a week, and they really went the extra mile. They really did. It was a wonderful experience.

O'BRIEN: Describe the scene as these troops sort of got on and realized what was happening. What was the exchange like between the people who gave up their seats and these troops?

MEADOWS: You had strangers who have never met these soldiers who had tears in their eyes because they were so excited to see these guys going home to see their families. There was hugs exchanged, handshakes. It was just a proud time to be an American.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And I can only imagine, you never had an ounce of regret over doing this.

MEADOWS: Never, never. And I would ask the people who are not in a hurry and see a soldier there, because most of these soldiers are flying standby. It's the greatest gift they can give.

O'BRIEN: Yes, especially as we get even closer to the holidays. But this time is so precious, no matter what time.

MEADOWS: I agree.

O'BRIEN: And let's hope that they meet with similar kind of reaction from the people at the ticket counters and so forth, and the captain, for that matter.

MEADOWS: I agree wholeheartedly.

O'BRIEN: All right, you don't remember the captain's name, do you?

MEADOWS: I don't. I wish I did.

O'BRIEN: Love to give him a shout-out. Well, we'll try to get that and make sure that people know what he was all about, because you all deserve a lot of credit for doing the right thing at the right moment.

MEADOWS: I just appreciate all the other people who were gracious enough to do the same thing. Unfortunately, they're not all here. I'm only here. But they're the great Americans as well.

O'BRIEN: All right, Steve Meadows, good work.

MEADOWS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: All right, good to meet you. Thanks for being with us.

MEADOWS: Thank you. You betcha.

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