Air travel can be a headache, especially during the holidays, but that didn’t stop one father from accompanying his youngest daughter on six flights so she wouldn’t be alone during her first Christmas working as a flight attendant for Delta.
His journey so moved Mike Levy, a passenger on their flight from Fort Myers, Florida, to Detroit, that Levy wrote about the pair on Facebook in a post that had been shared more than 35,000 times as of late Thursday afternoon.
“Now I’m seeing myself on my own Facebook feed,” Pierce Vaughan, 25, the flight attendant, said Thursday from her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It’s very surreal.”
It wasn’t an easy journey for her father, Hal Vaughan, 65.
He was still healing from a broken neck after falling off a ladder while trimming tree limbs in June.
“A stupid accident,” he said Thursday, the day after he returned home to Mississippi. “I hit the ground and bounced like a basketball.”
He was immobile for nearly two weeks, then gradually began to regain his strength. By November he had learned to walk again, without a cane.
But none of that — not even his strong distaste for airports — deterred him from boarding a plane in December.
“Long story short, I had missed a lot of time with Pierce this summer,” he said. “I just felt terrible thinking about her spending her first Christmas alone, even though she’s 25.”
Pierce Vaughan has always spent the holidays with her family, even when she graduated from the University of Mississippi and spent a year in Australia. (Her parents flew out to meet her.)
This Christmas, as documented by Levy, would be no exception.
Levy, 31, who lives in Sylvania, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, was sitting in first class on the way home from a family vacation in Florida when Hal Vaughan was assigned to the seat next to him, the only open one left on the plane.
The two started chatting, Levy said Thursday, and soon he learned why Hal Vaughan was traveling.
He asked to take a picture.
“I 100 percent thought they were messing with me,” Pierce Vaughan said.
She and her father set out Dec. 23, flying from New Orleans to Detroit, then to Fort Myers, and back again to Detroit.
On Christmas Eve they traveled to Hartford, Connecticut, where they had a layover.
“I’ve never been that far north in my life,” said Hal Vaughan, who grew up in Mississippi and lives near Ocean Springs.
They discovered a casino nearby in Springfield, Massachusetts, where they spent the day gambling. His daughter ended the day ahead by $100. He lost about $200.
“We had a great time. We really did,” he said.
Next they flew to Atlanta before finally returning to New Orleans on the 26th. That night, Hal Vaughan returned home and slept for 14 hours.
Traveling for three days straight “was a little tough,” he acknowledged, “but I refused to let people ride me around in those little golf carts.”
“I tell people I look old enough, I don’t need to make it any worse,” he added.
He was able to fly free on standby, one of the perks of having a daughter who works for Delta.
“The odds that he got on six separate flights is amazing,” Pierce Vaughan said.
Drake Castañeda, a spokesman for Delta Air Lines, said in a statement that the company loved “seeing this awesome Dad having the chance to spend Christmas with his daughter — even while crisscrossing the country at 30,000 feet.”
Since Levy first shared their story, both Pierce Vaughan and her father have been inundated with requests from the news media and a slew of positive comments.
At the time, they didn’t think they were doing anything particularly interesting.
“We just like spending time together,” she said.
Her father’s decision to spend the holiday with her meant “everything,” she said, especially because it would have been easier for him to stay in Mississippi.
Her mother, however, did stay home. It was the first time her parents hadn’t spent Christmas together since they had known each other, Pierce Vaughan said.
“Christmas is obviously huge for us,” she said. “For my mom to sacrifice that for him to be with me was indescribable.”