An American Airlines pilot’s heartwarming farewell speech after 32 years of service moves passengers to tears

A passenger has captured the heartwarming moment a pilot gave an emotional speech on his final flight after 32 years with American Airlines.

Before his retirement flight took off for Chicago last week, Jeff Fell stood at the front of the cabin to say his final goodbyes.

At first his address seemed like any other.

Fell welcomed the passengers on board, introduced himself and informed them of the flight time and weather.

He then admitted that it was strange for him to give the update from outside the cockpit.

“Normally I don’t get up in front of everyone else, I just stay in the cockpit and talk over the loudspeaker system. If I get a little emotional, please forgive me,” he said.

Since the passengers still didn’t know what to expect, he pointed out a group of “very important people” sitting at the back of the plane.

“The majority of my family accompanied me on my retirement flight,” Fell said.

Jeff Fell said goodbye on his final flight to Chicago last week.
Jeff Fell said goodbye on his final flight to Chicago last week.

The veteran pilot’s voice shook with emotion and the plane was filled with applause.

“You are accompanying me on my retirement flight after 32 years with American,” he said.

He continued, fighting back tears: “Thank you so much for coming with me tonight and celebrating this memorable time in my life. I love you all.

To renewed applause from his passengers, Fell added: “I didn’t mean to get emotional, but my goodness.”

Fell he said "didn't want to get emotional.  Good grief."
Fell said he didn’t want to get emotional, but he wanted to be gracious.

He returned to the prepared speech he was holding in his hand.

“Finally, to my wonderful wife, Julie, who has been by my side for most of my 32 years at American. She was the rock, the rock in the foundation of our life and our marriage. Her faith in the Lord, wisdom, strength and love has guided our marriage and family throughout these years. I love you and look forward to the next chapter in our lives. And everyone is welcome on board.”

The video uploaded to TikTok by passenger Justin Harrison has been viewed more than three million times.

Thousands of social media users left supportive comments, with many admitting the clip had brought them to tears.

“When he said I was retiring I was in tears,” one person wrote, earning more than 14,000 likes.

“Also 32 years of safe landings. God bless him and all pilots,” read another comment, which received 30,000 likes in support.

“Considering how many families, people and cultures he single-handedly connected across the world. Thank you!” written by a third person.

“32 years of experience in bringing people closer together. I’m crying!” agreed another.

A second video showed a water cannon salute, a tradition observed to mark the retirement of a senior pilot or other important event.

Two airport fire engines fired water at a passing aircraft. has contacted American Airlines for further comment.

Caroline Bleakley

Caroline Bleakley is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Caroline Bleakley joined USTimeToday in 2022 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Caroline Bleakley by emailing

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