Airport Employees Share The Saddest Goodbyes They've Seen

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What better place to witness some public heartbreaking goodbyes than the airport? Airport employees share the most heart wrenching goodbyes they have ever witnessed.

u/NervousHat asks:

Airport employees, what is the saddest goodbye you've witnessed?

The heartbreak is real

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I worked at a very small regional airport so I dealt with passengers from check-in to boarding. Often the passengers and their families would stay together all the way up until boarding.

An elderly gentleman was dropping off his son who had flown in from overseas where he lived for a visit. It was just us three in the terminal at the time, and after check-in the dad looked at his son and said "I have to go before I lose it" and he hugged his son, shook his hand and left. His son stood looking out the window to the tarmac and I could see he was getting a little upset. It was just us, so I walked over and asked if he was okay, he starts crying and says "this is probably the last time I am going to see my dad". He then tells me his dad is terminally ill with cancer and he has to return to his job overseas. All I could do was hug the guy and cry with him, it was very upsetting to me even as a stranger.

Exchange students are like family

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I saw a family of three ( mom, dad, teenage son) saying goodbye to another younger guy they had hosted at their house for an exchange program or something. The mom was crying and saying that he was part of the family and to visit whenever he wanted. The guy leaving looked pretty torn up but the dad and the teenage son looked pretty stoic. As the exchange student was leaving he said goodbye to each of them by hugging them and calling them mom, dad, and brother. The dad and teenage son literally burst into tears and starting sobbing really loudly. It was really sweet but really sad.

When you are ending it while on vacation

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Former airport employee here,

Last summer I worked at the international airport of The Netherlands where I would drive people around to their respective flights who were in need of assistance. Anyways, in my last week I had to pick-up an elderly (85-ish) man from the check-in desk. He was accompinied by a huge number of (presumeably) family members and friends, and as I told him he had to say goodbye cuz we needed to move on to customs, the majority of the group started crying.

At first I felt really uncomfortable because I had no idea what the hell was happening, but after about 15 mins he told me he was going to Portugal to enjoy his "final moments in a beautiful place before ending it all". I went silent instantly as I didn't know how to respond to that, I'm still left with so many questions as to how and why.

The final goodbye is the hardest

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The saddest goodbye was actually saying goodbye for the final time to one of my friends. He had worked for multiple airlines in the airport and was well liked by everyone. He died suddenly in his sleep and it devastated everyone in our small airport family. His family wanted to bury him in his home town so we had to ship his body away. Basically the whole airport had stopped operating while his friends loaded his body onto the aircraft taking him home. The whole ceremony performed was very emotional but I'm glad he got to take to the air even after death.

You see all the family drama

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Worked as an airport employee for a while. One of my duties was to accompany minors who were flying alone. Well there was this tiny boy, ten at the time, that I had to meet after his check-in. His mom checked him in, she saw me waiting, then she said, "Can you give me a few minutes to say goodbye?" I said sure, stepped aside, then she knelt so she can look the boy in the eye. She brought him to me after a few minutes so I walked with the boy towards the gate. He looked sad, so I made small talk and told him where he was going and if he were meeting someone where he's going.

Apparently his parents are separated and his mom is sending him to his dad because she can't afford to feed him adequately and send him to school. She also can't afford a round-trip plane ticket to go with him which is why the kid's flying alone. He said he's never going to see his mom again, because he's sure his dad won't allow him to.

As a child of a bad divorce myself, his story broke my heart.

They see some of the saddest things!

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I worked at Barcelona airport for a few years, and the saddest moment was also a goodbye moment. A couple with a baby of 2 came to Barcelona to visit the family of hers (she was spanish, he was british). It broke my heart when we at the sales desk realised a "Jim Wilson" who requested Special Asistance was on the flight. "Jim Wilson" is airline carrier code for a corpse being transported back home. So yes, the dead body was the baby of 2 who apparently collapsed for reasons I don't know, and now was being sent back to England.

There was literally 30 people, all family of hers in the airport, saying goodbye to the little coffin. I never saw a most lost person that the mother and the grandmother. It was shocking, many of our cooworkers had to take a break for several minutes as they could not stop crying.

Now I'm a father of a 9 month babygirl...and I'm just crying remembering this.

When you see true love

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A friend of mine was staying from China as au pair? On the last day we all go to see her off at the airport. We all exchange hugs, talk about meeting again, give phone numbers, etc.

Then one guy who gives her another hug just straight out says "You were the best ever." She is blushing at this point and we all stunned.

We asked them and no they weren't dating because she would have to go home soon. She left blushing, and we had a good laugh about it.

The dude who said it was just standing there as we walked away. A very kind of weird look on his face. When we asked whats up he just said "I hope she comes back."

She came back.

When you know all the stories

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I work at an international Airport in Germany. I was checking in an older lady who told me she has cancer and she is going to morrocco to get cannabis oil because that is supposed to help support the chemo therapy she is doing.

Two weeks later a young girl was at the airport demanding a ticket to morrocco crying her eyes out. Was like a punch in the gut :(

Cancer makes goodbye hard

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When I was in college, I used to work at an airport in a smaller city as a passenger assistant during the summer. I would help people with their baggage or help push people in wheelchairs to their gates, etc.

On more than one occasion I pushed late stage cancer patients to their gates who were flying to another city for chemo treatments. A lot of times family members would walk with us all the way up to the gate to say goodbye, just in case it was the last time. Broke my heart each and every time :(

Pain is always hard to see

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a little kid was bawling his eyes out and clinging to his dad's leg to stop him from going. I think the kid was going to stay with some older relatives ( maybe grandparents?).

This would get to anyone

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Whenever a fallen soldier comes home. And especially if that soldier had his or her trusty companion with them too. Seeing those caskets come out from the plane just punches you right in the gut.

You never know what someone is going through

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Years ago, I was a flight attendant and due to weather, we were slammed with missed connections, late arrivals and everything else thrown in the mix.

We were loaded up and waiting to depart from the jetway and after about 15 minutes, a woman was escorted to the plane. I led her to the last seat available on the last row and we finished our predeparture duties and took off. Everything had gone wrong that day and IIRC, we weren't catered properly so this added to my annoyance.

I took a moment to speak to the lady who boarded last and she said she was going to see her husband and then got quiet. I asked her if everything was ok and she said he had had a heart attack and she was rushing to be with him at the hospital. I asked her if he was going to be ok and she said, "I don't know." I was shocked and don't know why but I asked her if he was going to make it and she looked at me and said, "I don't know". I realized she didn't even know if he was still alive and I spent much of the rest of the flight kneeling beside her in the aisle, holding her hand.

I have thought back to that moment thousands of times over the years since then in moments when I get annoyed at people or if something inconveniences me or someone else as you never know what someone is going through.

Aw, the puppy love

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A marine saying goodbye to his dog :(

For those of you in a LDR

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I don't know what people thought when they saw me crying my eyes out when I was saying goodbye to my beautiful sweet girlfriend at the airport and entering the gate for the plane.

I couldn't stop crying and when I looked back for the last time and saw her sobbing I was close to send everything to hell and go back to her arms (but of course that would've meant violating my Visa by overstaying in the US and basically ruining my life). LDR are tough man but she's worth it


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So, I did Honor Guard a few years back, Air Force, and an Airman was killed in a traffic accident overseas. His fiancee was back in the states. I had to carry the casket from the plane to the hearse while the family waited on the flight line. That was pretty rough since the guy was like 20 years old.


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Working one night, I passed by an elderly lady staring on cart disperser. I asked her if she needed change for a cart, she turns around and started crying telling me she had to fly down so fast she forgot to bring money with her. She flew home to pick-up her husband's body who suddenly passed away. Made me cry, gave her everything in my pocket and made sure baggage agents took care of her.

When immigration tears families apart

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One time I was flying out of El Salvador to the States and I saw this big burly man and his daughter saying goodbye to each other. He was bawling his eyes out telling her to be a good girl. I think she was immigrating to the United States and he couldn't go. It broke my heart.

That's a dramatic goodbye

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Man shows up at airport with 2 dozen of beautiful roses, says his wife has been on business trip for 2 weeks, and he is there to surprise her and bring her home, and needs help finding her.

Find her. She gets off the flight. Drunk as a skunk. Needs a wheelchair. We get her up front to where her husband is waiting on the checkpoint exit.

He surprises her, she puts her hand in her face, looks up and says "I'm leaving you, I found (some guy name not audible) on my trip and I love him"

She threw the roses on the ground. He picked them up, clearly shaken, said he can't do this, said goodbye, and off he went.

No idea what happened after that. But this guy was on cloud 9 surprising his wife, and she completely destroyed him in seconds.


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I dont know, I mean we had a Family fly in to drop their daughter off for I guess a boarding school? In our business its not entirely our place to ask directly or judge (Generally we ask "What Brings you to ?") but That was a awkward ride from the plane to the FBO when the little kid realized Mom and Dad would not be staying with them.

Now thhat's messed up!

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Most heathbreaking ever... Little girl of 3 years old ..that had to say goodbye to her mom who just OD. On drugs she swallowed to smuggle... Couldnt give a f*** about the mother ... but the face off total innocent kid... They had to take her out of her moms arms in the plane.