Crazy Story About A Fun United Pilot | Ask A United Pilot

BRAD INTERVIEWS Your Friendly Neighborhood United Pilot

Brad had a really interesting interaction with an unusual…. And awesome … United Airlines pilot.   The story will make your heart feel good!  Listen to the story, and then meet the star of the day, Captain Mark Hardcastle.

Since when Has a Thank You become a surprise? 

 How to use gratitude as an uber-powerful gesture.  

Today were going to talk about the most powerful thank you have received in years… and how we can all step up our gratitude game to improve our relationships and our business.

A while back I was boarding a United Airlines jet from Houston back home to Denver, and the flight was late so a lot of folks are crowding up to the jetway entrance. As many of you know, just before they start boarding the gate agent will make a few announcements. But on this day something was different: the pilot made the announcement to those of us waiting to board.

Because I travel so much I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t listen to the first part of the announcement. I’ve heard the gate announcement so many times there isn’t much information of interest for me. But I realized that the people around me were closely paying attention which made me tune into what was happening. What!?  The pilot is talking?   Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

This very nice guy in a pilot uniform  took command. He reminded us that we were running behind, but he told us the reason why. Something like, “My job is to get you to Denver safely. I’m late because of unsafe weather.  You are now late because of weather.  We are in this together and things are looking great.”

Then he made us feel even more comfortable:  “We’ve found a safe route, I’ve checked over the plane, and the entire crew is trained and ready to make this happen for you.”

I was blown away. He was just so authentic and honest. He made me feel comfortable and made me actually feel good about the delay. He was the kind of guy you just want to be at the controls of a jumbo jet.

But then he made the largest and most positive impression possible. He thanked us.  It wasn’t just a breezy and rote appreciation.  Something mumbled in the the microphone because you’ve said it word for word so many times.  It was the real deal. “Thanks for flying United.  None of us would be here without you and we are grateful for your business.”

I was looking around the crowd and realized the rest of the passengers were as impressed and touched as I was.

But was he done? Not this guy. He’s amazing. He put the microphone down and came out to greet several of us. Looked us in the eye and gave us a very personal bit of thanks for flying the friendly skies.

I went up to meet him. I said something like, “I flown 1.5 million miles on this airline and am a 1K member.   I can’t remember a pilot EVER delivering such a personal thank you.”

He just looked me in the eyes and smiled, asked me a little bit about my travels and then put the icing on the cake.  “Not only do I thank you, but my family thanks you.  When I say I appreciate your business I mean it. I’m grateful.”

That’s the moment I met rockstar United airlines pilot Mark Hardcastle.  I asked for a selfie and he graciously agreed.  

He left to go start the plane… okay I admitted I have no idea what pilots do before we take off… And suddenly all of us strangers were talking to each other. “Have you ever experienced something like that?”  “It seemed like he is the real deal!”  “That was sooooooooo cool!”

I spent quite a bit of time on that flight thinking of Captain Mark.  That’s what the flight attendants and gate agents called him once he was gone.  “He does that often,” they confirmed.  

There were two things that were impressive about his gratitude. The first is that he was able to do it so sincerely and authentically. He made it real. We knew that he meant it and this fact meant a lot to us.

The second reason is more mind blowing. The reason why this personal heartfelt apology was so special was because it is so rare. When was the last time you’ve done business with somebody who took the time to deliver any thank you at all, much less a longer and more complete one? I know the answer:  hardly ever.  

Can you imagine a person working the cash register at Target saying, “Thanks  you so much for shopping here.  If you didn’t I wouldn’t have a job.  And because I’m raising a family this job is really important to me. Thanks for shopping Target!”   That would  make an impression precisely because it is so rare.

So what is the bottom line here for you? If you want to improve your relationships and you want to improve your business, if you want to earn customer loyalty on steroids, then you need to learn from Mark Hardcastle. Offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you and watch the magic happen.  And for extra credit tell your client or customer why you are so grateful.   

Hey United Airlines; you need to shine your spotlight on Mark Hardcastle. He’s exactly the brand ambassador you need right now. Figure out a way to let him communicate this very personal and old-school technique to the rest of your staff. He’s got some brilliance that the rest of your team desperately needs.

That’s Not the End of the Story

I’m a motivational speaker and I am frequently looking for life lessons from every day exchanges. I’m always looking for great examples of people who are able to improve business through awesome people skills.

So it won’t surprise you that I sat there on that plane thinking, gosh I need to talk about this guy on stage!  So I got out one of my motivational speaker business cards, and wrote on the back that I would love to interview him in person or by phone because he impressed the crap out of me. And I asked the flight attendant to deliver it to Capt. Mark.

He wrote back a very enthusiastic note that he’d be delighted to talk to me.

But the crazy part was that he wrote to me on the back of HIS business card, which reads:

Mark Hardcastle

Motivational Speaker

Apparently his secondary job is that he, like me, is a keynote speaker for events and meetings of all types.    I laughed, realized I wasn’t surprised, understood that I need to leave his brilliance for him and his audiences, and that I knew I had met a master.

So I don’t talk about him on stage. But I did ask and receive his permission to write this article.

So get going. Amp up the gratitude to your customers. Make sure you communicate in a heartfelt and genuine fashion. Offer reasons for your gratitude. And watch your bottom line grow.


BradMontgomery is a funny motivational keynote speaker. He speaks to Association, corporate, healthcare and government audiences at meetings and conventions. He is also a skilled online motivational speaker, which means that he is also a virtual presenter. He like to thank you for reading this article… And think you even more for sharing it. Why? Because this is how he feeds his family, is putting his children through college, and buying airline tickets from United.  

Brad Montgomery with Mark Hardcastle
Crazy Story About A Fun United Pilot | Ask A United Pilot
Biography of a Motivational Speaker

Brad Montgomery flies a lot.  Or, at least he did pre-pandemic.   He is a business keynote speaker for audiences large and small.  His clients include McDonalds, Microsoft and 1000’s of clients that nobody has ever heard of.  (I’m talking about you Air Duct Cleaning Association!). Call him today to ask about customizing an event — live or virtual — to get your people performing at their best.

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