Retiring American Airlines Pilot Gives His Wings to Toddler With Down Syndrome
An American Airlines pilot, who just completed his last flight before retiring, signed off on his 34-year career in the most heartwarming way possible.
Captain Joe Weis decided to give his special pilot wings to a young boy who has Down syndrome after they landed at Miami International Airport earlier this month, the Orlando Sentinel reported. After learning about the young traveler, whose name is Ki Klitenick, Weis couldn’t help but end his illustrious career with a little act of kindness.
The pilot posted a video on Facebook of himself pinning his wings to the two-year-old from northern Florida as his mom, Sarah Tamar Klitenick, bounced the toddler on her knee. The pair were returning from a family reunion in Spain, making their flight his first international trip.
“My last flight was very special for many reasons. Wendy was sitting in a row with Ki and his mom back from Madrid,” Weis wrote on the Facebook post, referring to his wife. “She found out that this was his first flight. Since it was my last and his first we decided to make it special. So I pinned my AA Captain wings on him after we landed in Miami. I will remember this always.”
The pilot's wife and Sarah talked for a while before she texted her husband to let him know about Ki, Fox News reported.
“It's so amazing what he did. The whole thing was so cool,” Sarah told the Orlando Sentinel. “With all the negative things going on in the world, it’s just nice when people do things that are unbelievably nice."
A spokesperson for American Airlines told Travel + Leisure they are "truly touched" by the pilot's actions.
"Captain Weis, who started with American in March 1985, always loved to engage with his passengers. When Captain Weis found out his last flight at American was Ki's first flight, he wanted to pass along his wings to a future generation. We are all proud of Captain Weis and wish him all the best on his retirement. We also look forward to welcoming Ki on future American flights, along with his wings."
In Weis' video, Ki is seen smiling and saying “thank you” to the veteran pilot in sign language. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the little boy is still very proud of his wings.