Michael Ray Huerta: When Humanity Makes You Proud


It’s not often that humility and goodwill leave us close to tears, but every so often, someone comes along to remind us to be gentle with each other, to be kind to one another, to see the beauty in the lives of others.

Michael Ray Huerta did that for me today, and I say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for helping to start this elderly gentleman’s trip with empathy and kindness.

I have worked in the travel industry before, and when you get asked the same question over and over, especially during a gruelling 13-hour flight, it is easy to be short-tempered and grumpy. Thank you, Michael for retaining your pleasure with your job, and for putting a smile on someone’s face.

Delta, please give this man a pay-rise: he’s not only ensuring safety, but making beautiful memories!

Here’s what happened and why Michael moved me today:

I’d like to share with you the most meaningful experience I’ve had in my 2+ years of flying.

While boarding our flight from Nigeria last night, the man you see in this picture was seated in an aisle seat. As I walked by him, he waived me down and after I approached, he said “I must go to the toilet to relieve myself.” I said “Ok, sir, the toilet is right behind you,” pointing towards the bathrooms near the back galley. He repeated his request, but this time he was motioning both hands towards his lap and politely said “but I need to go to the toilet, please.” I assumed he was just reiterating his need to pee, so I again pointed towards the aft bathroom. He continued to motion towards his lap, but this time he grabbed his seat belt. It hit me; he had placed his seat belt on, but had no idea how to lift the buckle to release the belt! I apologized for not having understood, smiled, and showed him how to release his seatbelt. I shared this story with the crew shortly after and we were all humbled by the experience. But the story doesn’t end here.

Throughout the 12 hour flight, the man was as nice and generous as could be. He was smiling, enjoying the meals and entertainment, while always offering a genuine “thank you.”

In the last hour of the flight, he came to the back galley and was just looking around in awe, fascinated by the plane. He and I began to talk…

In his decades of living, today was this mans first time in an airplane, his first time seeing a seatbelt, and his first time leaving his small village. As a mathematics and geography teacher, he’d always dreamed of visiting the United States. So he saved money his entire life so that one day he could purchase a flight, a new suit, and a camera.

Today was that day, and today I had the distinct honor of being able to serve him on the first leg of that journey.

I’m moved to tears that I could be so lucky to meet this man. Of the thousands of passengers I’ve ever served, of the rich and famous, successful and powerful, frequent travelers and million milers, serving this one man – in coach – was the greatest honor I’ve had as a flight attendant.

Swing by, whenever you’re in the UK, Michael, I’ve got some jollof rice and plantain with your name all over it. Star!

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