Viral flight attendant story: Father opens up about his epic Christmas trip

The idea for the father-daughter trip that went viral this week was hatched a few days before Christmas at a neighborhood party on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Delta Air Lines flight attendant Pierce Vaughan, 25, was visiting her parents in Ocean Springs for the party since she would be working over the Christmas holiday. The rookie’s flight attendant’s schedule had her spending Christmas on a layover in Hartford, Connecticut.

“Thinking of her being in that hotel room all by herself on Christmas Day really bugged her mother and I,” Hal Vaughan, Pierce’s father, said in an interview Friday with USA TODAY.

So they decided Hal would tag along on several of her flights, flying standby for free as the parent of an employee. (Kimberly Vaughan stayed home to watch the family pets.)

“I thought she’d be kind of indifferent to it, but she was so happy,” Vaughan said of his daughter. “She was just thrilled.” 

It wasn’t the first time her parents did something crazy to be with her on Christmas.

Two years ago, when she was working in Australia after college graduation, they hopped a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney to celebrate with her. It was their first Christmas away from home.

The Christmas trip this year was a milestone for Hal Vaughan, his first flights since an accident in June and the first time he used his Delta flight benefits. Vaughan fell off a ladder and broke his neck while trimming some trees at his house. He was temporarily paralyzed and went through months of rehab. He went from a wheelchair to a walker and then a cane. He started walking without assistance a few weeks ago, albeit slowly.

His physical therapist and doctor gave him the OK to trek through multiple airports with his daughter.

“It’s the first time I’ve been able to do it. That’s what made it even more exciting,” Vaughan said.

The duo took off on their trip on Dec. 23, the day after the Christmas party. They flew from New Orleans to Detroit, where she is based. That flight was all fun because Pierce had the day off. 

She reported to work on the morning of Christmas Eve and their real adventure was on. They were prepared for plenty of obstacles since standby passengers often don’t make flights, especially during the holiday rush.

“We did anticipate me missing a flight and having to catch up with her,” he said.

Vaughan, 65, almost didn’t make it onto his daughter’s first flight, from Detroit to Fort Myers, Florida, a popular holiday beach getaway, but he made it.

On the return flight to Detroit, he was seated in first class.

He was sitting in seat 4D, next to a passenger from Ohio named Mike Levy. Levy was so taken with Vaughan’s travels with his daughter he snapped a selfie with him and shared the story on his Facebook page.

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