TikToker Justin, dubbed @realjharrison on the platform, captured the poignant moment on his phone, publishing the footage on 10 November. In his video, which has now accumulated over 3.3 million views, pilot Jeff Fell is seen addressing his last cabin of passengers on their way from Charlotte, North Carolina to Chicago in February of 2022.
Fell started with his normal spiel of welcoming the passengers aboard, giving them details about their arrival time and the expected weather in Chicago.
“I normally don’t stand up in front of everybody like this, I just stay in the cockpit,” he continued. “If I get a little emotional, please forgive me for that.
“They’re the majority of my family who have come along with me on my retirement flight after 32 years at American,” Fell noted of the people applauding him in the background. “I love you all.” The passionate pilot got choked up, carefully taking a deep breath and swallowing before he continued.
Dressed in his uniform for the last time, Fell took a moment to give a personal shoutout to his wife Julie, acknowledging the unconditional support she’d shown for him throughout his career. “She has been the solid rock in our foundation in our lives and our marriage. Her faith in the Lord, wisdom, strength, and love has guided our marriage and family throughout these years,” he remarked.
“Privileged to have been there for this,” Justin’s caption read.
Affected viewers felt the outpour of love from Fell and took to the comments to share their thoughts on the pilot’s heartfelt message.
“I’d be crying and staring out the window the whole flight,” one viewer admitted, while another said: “32 years of safe landings also. God bless him and all pilots.”
“He just seems like the sweetest soul ever omg,” someone else added.
Meanwhile, one woman confessed she could relate to Fell’s family. “I was five when I was on my grandpa’s retirement flight. This made me cry. I miss him,” she noted.
“The smile after, ‘who have come along with me on my retirement flight,’ broke me,” another person pointed out.
“Think about all the people he’s transported from one place to another,” another moved viewer remarked.
Speaking to The Independent, Justin, who also happened to be the lead flight attendant on Fell’s flight, explained how he only intended to send the footage to Fell at first.
“I was the lead flight attendant working his flight and recorded him for the sole purpose of sending him the video to keep for memories sake,” Justin remarked. “He gave permission for me to post but I never did.”
“Recently I worked with another pilot who was approaching retirement and I was reminded of Captain Fell,” he continued. “I rewatched the video and it gave me chills to see his vulnerability and his sense of purpose. I was so moved by his message that I decided to share it on tiktok.”
Since publishing Fell’s speech on his platform, Justin has been “so pleased” by the flood of support and impact the message has had on people.
The Independent has contacted American Airlines for a comment.