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A United pilot paid for a stranded college student's flight: 'There are no words'

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/17/2019 David Oliver

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

A United Airlines pilot stepped up to help a stranded college student by paying for her flight back to school after her plane was diverted.

The heartwarming story was told in a video posted to United's YouTube page Friday, just in time for Father's Day. The video notes the stranded traveler, identified only as Kiana, is from Hawaii, and her own father was about 3,000 miles away.

Kiana Coffin, 19, was traveling back to school at Pacific University in Oregon when bad weather caused her flight (on another airline) to divert to Seattle. 

"The airline had basically stuck her in a hotel room overnight and had forgotten about her," Kiana's father, Dave Coffin, said in a video. "At one point, I was about to go book a flight and go get her myself and by the grace of God, (the pilot, Robert Fonte) came into our lives and helped us out."

Fonte, a Houston-based first pilot, first saw Kiana with a TSA agent and thought she might be in trouble. She broke down in tears after he asked if she was doing OK. When he learned about her predicament, he thought about his own daughter who's around the same age. He then went to the ticket counter to see what could be done.

United doesn't fly from Seattle to Portland, but that didn't phase Robert: "I told the lobby agent you know what? Just put it on my card," he said in the video. "We're gonna get Kiana where she needed to be."

"From dad to dad, there are no words that could express my gratitude towards Robert for what he has done," Dave said. The two dads are now texting buddies and think of each other as friends.

Happy Father's Day indeed.


This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: A United pilot paid for a stranded college student's flight: 'There are no words'

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