First class.

I have always loved flying. Ever since I was a little kid. My Grandmother traveled quite a bit and regularly took me with her.

Lately, though, I have come to dread it. The abysmal customer service of most airlines, their sole focus on profit in defference to comfort, and a system run so tightly that there is no room for give. Almost all flights these days are specifically overbooked in fear of the potential monetary loss of one single empty seat.

Hence it was with some surprise that I noted a few empty seats, including two in first class, as I boarded a recent flight on US Airways to Phoenix. I figured this was likely due to the flight continuing to Salt Lake City afterwards.

Boarding was completed and most settled into the seats when the captain’s voice came over the PA system. He covered the usual bases – the weather, flying conditions, time to destination. Then he said, “If there are any active duty service people on board, and you have a valid current military ID, please see one of our flight attendants.”

A minuite or so passed and from my vantge point near the rear of the aircraft I could see a couple of people respond to the call. They were ushered from their seats to the front of the plane. Shortly thereafter, the captain came in again and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to let you know that we have the honor and privalage of having two true American heroes on our plane.” He gave their names and ranks and continued “For their service in defense of our country, we have given them a free First Class upgrade.”

The entire plane erupted in aplause and in that moment, I found new hope that one day I might enjoy flying again as much as I did that day.