The Most Meaningful Passenger A Former Flight Attendant Ever Served Was One She Couldn't See

The Most Meaningful Passenger A Former Flight Attendant Ever Served Was One She Couldn't See
Photo Credit: Noriko YAMAMOTO@Flickr CC BY SA 2.0

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Flight attendants need to travel all over the world. Whether it’s on an airplane or at a famous tourist attraction, especially in hotels, they unavoidably hear and even come across some unique experiences.

I have serviced many special passengers, but a family of four left the deepest impression on me, for only three of its members were visible.

It was an autumn afternoon and I was servicing a flight from Taipei-Beijing-Taipei. I still remember that day; it was very busy at the boarding gate from Beijing to Taipei. The cabin was full of businessmen in suits. Looking at their formal attire, I thought once we arrived in Taipei, they were probably going to have to go straight to make some business deal or attend an important meeting.

Businessmen enjoy reading various business-related newspapers and magazines. Due to the limited amount of Commercial Times, Economic Daily, Business Weekly and other related publications, we normally need to ask our senior colleagues in business class if we can have some extra copies for the passengers in economy class.

Because these passengers are individual guests, there is the possibility additional people will ask for these publications after I bring some back for those who requested them first. So we are usually overwhelmed with walking back and forth the aisle packed with passengers and randomly stopping to help people with their luggage.

While I was busy and sweating in the cabin with my uniform sticking to my back, a young girl suddenly stopped me with a gentle voice. “Excuse me, Miss,” she said.

I walked to her with a huge pile of magazines in my arms and sweat dropping down my face. I asked, “May I help you with anything?"

She carried a huge The North Face backpack on her chest with one arm hugging it to her body and the other holding it up from the bottom.

The girl asked, “This bag is very heavy and needs to be protected well. May I ask if there is any where I can put it?"

She only appeared to be around 10 years old, but had dark circles around her eyes.

“Miss, there is a urn in the bag. It’s my father,” the girl explained.

Photo Credit: Jürgen Stemper // Bloemche @Flickr CC BY SA 2.0

Photo Credit: Jürgen Stemper // Bloemche @Flickr CC BY SA 2.0

I saw there was a younger girl next to her. She looked like she was in kindergarten. At that moment, I didn’t know if I should hide the sadness from my face because I was afraid my sorrow would hurt them again.

We reconfirmed the PIL (Passenger Information List). Though the cinerary urn had been approved for boarding the aircraft, there wasn’t a record of a CBBG (Blocked Seat Cabin Baggage) application, so the backpack was a carry-on and we needed to find a safe place for it.

At this point, a lady with an emaciated face rushed to us from the toilet and said, “ These are my daughters. I’m sorry, but the backpack is being supported by my daughter’s body and will need someone to help when we take it off because it’s very heavy. I’m afraid you might feel uncomfortable, so please let me do it.”

I replied immediately, “It doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all. Don’t worry. Please follow me.”

I opened a long locker that is usually filled with the flight attendants’ black suitcases. Luckily, there was still some space left. With the approval of my co-workers, I spread a few blankets on the bottom of the cabinet and helped the girl take off the backpack. I could feel the weight of it the moment I took it off. It was much heavier than I had imagined. If the mother didn’t help me, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to hold the bag.

We put the backpack into the locker together and tried to keep it in place with multiple pillows in case of any turbulence. It wasn’t until the mother and two daughters were relieved did I close the locker.

This might sound weird, but I took another peek at the backpack before closing the locker and thought, “Your family will arrive in Taipei safe and sound.”

After all this was settled, I realized that I hadn’t handed the newspapers and magazines to the passengers. The cabin door was about to be closed and I hurried to pass them out. As expected, many of them rolled their eyes impatiently at me and one even said angrily, “Your service is way too slow!”

I could only check on the family from time to time in fear that my over concern would make them feel worse.

During the flight, the mother and daughters were very polite and they didn’t talk much. All I remember is the older girl asked me for two more white chocolate wafers after dinner and the mom asked for a headphone for her daughter then fell asleep on her right hand with her left holding tightly to the younger girl’s hand. There was a sharp contrast between the calm family and the angry passengers who shouted at me just because I didn’t give them what they asked for within 10 minutes.

I knew that I didn’t have right to ask additional questions, so all I could do was check on the family frequently and sometimes give them more helpful and caring glances. Just like when I was helping them place the backpack, I was afraid that caring too much would cause them more harm. I was even scared that my sympathy would make them feel even sadder.

Before the captain made the landing broadcast, the mother came to the kitchen and asked us if they could hold the backpack upon landing.

Due to safety concerns, we had to refuse her. According to the regulations, passengers can’t carry any bags on them when the plane is landing. But looking at the worried mother, the cabin manager suggested, “Why don’t we check the backpack again and make sure if it needs to be fastened tighter? This way you will feel more assured.”

I led the mother to the locker and a few colleagues took some pillows coming along with us. After the readjustment, the mother appeared to be more relaxed. Before she returned to her seat, we reminded her to say in her seat after landing and wait for all the passengers leave the place. Afterwards, we would help her take out the backpack and put it on her back.

After hearing all this, the mother burst into tears and couldn’t say a word. A colleague held her shoulders and said, “It’s okay. Everything will be fine. Look, we’re almost there.”

Photo Credit:  Hernán Piñera@Flickr CC BY SA 2.0

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera@Flickr CC BY SA 2.0

After landing safely, the family stayed in their seats and didn’t stand up until we walked towards them. My colleague and I took the backpack out of the locker together and when we were helping the little girl put it back on her back we heard her say, “Daddy, we’re home.”

I sent them to the gate and gave the mother a hug. She said quietly, “I really appreciate everything you have done.” It was as if she would burst into tears again if she said another word. Almost all my colleagues felt like crying while watching them slowly leave.


If the passengers knew there was an urn in the cabin that day, I think they would have complained and even try to switch seats because of all kinds of superstitions. All this is understandable.

But as a flight attendant, we don’t always see the joy of traveling; sometimes we need to witness all kinds of deaths and farewells.

Most passengers fly for travel or business, but for some people their flight is unusual and even more meaningful, such as, taking their beloved family home.

Trying to protect the little girl’s huge backpack the best I could so the three of them could send the father onto another journey safely was a mission that held a greater meaning for us that day.

Translated by Zoey Lo
Edited by Olivia Yang