Cynthia Hanson has flown to Paris about 100 times during her 41 years as a flight attendant for American Airlines. But there was something different about her last return trip before retirement.
The Preston Hollow resident and her colleagues went through customs one at a time on Sept. 25, and each was surprised by what she found on the other side: Bob Crandall.
American’s former CEO and his wife, Jan, flew in from San Francisco to greet Hanson and three other retiring flight attendants with an invitation to celebrate in the Admiral’s Club, complete with champagne and chocolates.
How did this come to be? Simple: One of the other retiring ladies wrote Crandall a letter.
“We do have executives, current and former, who … catch wind of a special occasion going on, and we always welcome them to come join us,” American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said. “This isn’t an everyday occurrence, but of course, it is a special occasion to have folks who are retiring from our great company and have worked here for a very long time.”
For Hanson, the experience was once in a lifetime.
“It was shocking — literally shocking,” she said.
Usually, an employee’s family members and friends are the only ones to greet her last flight. Many times, a supervisor will send off the retiring employee but not be there when she returns.
Hanson’s manager had prepared a binder of mementos for her before she took off for Paris, but she wasn’t expecting to see Crandall when she got back.
“He was really in the moment,” she said. “He loved the fact that we didn’t know, and he greeted each one of us and had our picture taken.”
Hanson and the other women on the flight had been flying internationally together for about four years, after Hanson’s three children were grown. That bond itself was rare.
“We just developed a friendship and had a lot in common, and enjoyed each other’s company,” she said.
The ladies often made the most of their 24-hour stops in Paris, whipping through museums and restaurants before turning around to fly back.
Now that retirement has hit, Hanson plans on indulging her love of antiquing with friends and spending time with her grandchildren. But Crandall’s appearance is something she will never forget.
“It was a really wonderful sendoff and quite a surprise,” she said. “It was very special.”