Dec. 19, 2012 -- Travelers are quick to give the airlines grief. But in a time of incredible grief, one traveler – from Newtown, Conn. -- says an airline went above and beyond to help her in any way they could.
This is the story of Dawn Briggs. An employee of Travelocity, she was returning from a business trip in Mexico to her home in Newtown on Dec 14. She was en route to the Cancun airport to board her flight, JetBlue flight 752 from Cancun to New York's John F. Kennedy, when she got an automated message from the superintendent of schools that there had been a shooting at an unnamed school in Newtown and her children's school was on lockdown.
Briggs has two children, a boy and a girl. They are in first and second grade, respectively.
She boarded the flight, and learned the shooting had occurred at Sandy Hook elementary – not her children's school. But there was, at this time, talk of a second gunman.
"I was thinking, perhaps there are multiple shooters, going from school to school," she said. "I was helpless on the flight. Every sentence triggered a new fear."
She was crying and shaking, she said. And that's when the airline – as well as fellow passengers – stepped in.
"I was approached by a flight attendant," she said, "who offered me tissues and any assistance she could give. Another passenger, a grandmother, offered me her rosary beads."
Shortly after the flight attendant approached her for the first time, she came back. This time, it was to let her know the captain wanted to personally offer her a ride home. It turned out he lived in a nearby town.
During the four-hour flight, Briggs watched the tragedy unfold on JetBlue's in-flight television. The news media began reporting upwards of 20 deaths, many of them children. Briggs, who has lived in Newtown for almost ten years and knows several families at Sandy Hook elementary, began to realize she would know some of the children killed. As she would find out later, she personally knew three of the children.
About 30 minutes before the flight was to land, the flight attendant asked her to move to the front row of the plane so Briggs could disembark the plane immediately upon arrival and they could "help her get through customs quickly." She called her husband the minute the flight touched down and found out her children were safe, "already home and wrestling," she said.
The doors of the plane then opened, and six people, a "mix of JetBlue executives, airport security and customs agents" were there to greet her. She was escorted through customs immediately, her passport being stamped by a woman who "had tears in her eyes and said she was glad my children were ok." Her escorts stayed by her side as she waited for her bags and made sure she was escorted directly to her waiting car.
"I'm sure I wasn't the only person on that plane with connections to the shooting," she said. "But the professionalism of everyone on the flight was incredible. The flight attendant, she had a job to do, she remained stoic and didn't show if she was upset. She followed through on everything she said she was going to do."
As for JetBlue, an airline spokeswoman would only say, "We're proud of our crewmembers who went above and beyond to help one of our customers during a most difficult time. Caring is in our DNA at JetBlue; we often say that we're a customer service company that happens to fly planes."
Briggs has already reached out JetBlue on Facebook to thank the airline. Her post has received 348 comments and over 13,200 likes since December 15. She summed it up in her post, "JetBlue was my favorite airline BEFORE this experience. You can only imagine how I feel about them now."