Sheryl Pardo had to see her mother one last time.
Pardo’s mom, Sandra Wilkins, entered hospice care in Sudbury after a long battle with dementia in late March. On the morning of March 27, Pardo, a native of McLean, Va., drove to Reagan International Airport in Washington D.C. unsure if she would be able to board a flight to Boston due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was (able to book a flight) on Travelocity,” the 59-year-old Pardo said Saturday in a phone interview. “The funny thing was I couldn’t confirm it. Like, I tried to check-in and they wouldn’t let me check-in. So I honestly wasn’t even sure when I was driving over that morning. And things hadn’t been fully shut down at this point…It was this very funny gray area.”
To her surprise, she only saw six other passengers in the airport. The only store open was a Dunkin.’ When it came time to board her American Eagle flight, she found out she was going to be the only passenger.
“I had a seat further down and I got on and the gate person told me I was the only person on the plane,” Pardo said. “She walked me down and [the flight attendants were there] and I was like, ‘Where do you guys want me to sit?’ They were like, ‘Sit first class! You can sit anywhere you want!'”
After Pardo took her seat in first class, Jessica (Pardo didn’t get her last name), one of the two flight attendants, addressed the plane like she usually would before a flight. Of course, this time was a bit different.
“My name is Jessica. Dion and I will be your flight attendants today,” Jessica began her announcement. “And we have – Sheryl – as our passenger today, living it up in first class mama! Everybody shout out to Sheryl, the only passenger on the plane!”
FLYING SOLO: Lone passenger on Boston-bound flight gets personal intercom welcome from flight attendant as coronavirus sends aviation industry into near-hibernation. https://t.co/BzuMSSzTwM pic.twitter.com/Lqth6g4xxT
— ABC News (@ABC) April 3, 2020
The captain joined in on the fun too.
“When we got up to cruising altitude, the captain came on (the speaker) and said, ‘Welcome, Sheryl, to 10,000 feet,'” Pardo said. “So that was super cute too because the captain was like ‘let’s make this fun.'”
Pardo didn’t need the luxuries of first class seating to entertain her during the flight. She said she felt an instant connection with the flight attendants, calling them her “best friends.” She felt an especially close bond with Jessica.
“There’s this kind of fear (right now) that we’re a little bit more vulnerable and open,” Pardo, who also noted that they were social distancing during the flight, said. “[Jessica] was telling me a lot about her life. And honestly, she had a really interesting life story. And I told her I was going to see my mom.
“We really just had this heartfelt conversation.”
Pardo said she hasn’t talked to Jessica since that day and is hoping that this story (which has been picked up by national outlets such as ABC News and CNN) reaches Jessica so she can contact her.
“I don’t have her information,” Pardo said. “I hope this has been getting a fair amount of attention. I hope she’ll figure out how to reach out to me because I’m on Twitter (her handle is @spardova).”
Pardo also hopes this story gives attention to the flight attendants that she believes are doing great work.
“[Jessica] and Dion were both very new flight attendants,” Pardo said. “So, I’m assuming that means they’re, you know, the people way down on the totem pole, and are the ones who had to go work during this situation. I hope they get a lot of credit for doing a great job and giving them a public face.”
When she got off that plane, Pardo had to say goodbye to her mom one last time. She spent the day with her mom and her brother, Greg, in Sudbury before flying back home that same night.
Pardo was again the only passenger on her flight home. But that flight wasn’t the same as the one she took that morning.
“They were very funny,” Pardo said of the flight attendants on her American Eagle flight that evening. “But I didn’t really chat with them. I just think I clicked with Jessica and (that flight) was the first thing in the morning, and I’m a morning person.
“And obviously flying back was harder, because that was the last time I was going to see my mom.”
Sandra Wilkins passed away the next morning, March 28. She was 83 years old.
Pardo said her mom didn’t want to be in hospice for long and was happy she got to pass on her own terms. She’s also happy about the story on the final days of her mom’s life.
“It’s so cool that this little piece of attention is surrounding her death,” Pardo said. “It’s not something a little school nurse from Ithaca, New York would’ve expected.
“I think everyone is really wanting a nice story right now.”
Get Boston.com's e-mail alerts:
Sign up and receive coronavirus news and breaking updates, from our newsroom to your inbox.