The Ojeda family has flown more than 600 flights with Delta Air Lines as they travel from their home in California to Florida. Eleven-year-old Billy is participating in medical clinical trials with his parents and sisters by his side. On every trip, the family says they’ve experienced “best-in-class” service and kindness.
DELTA NEWS ON THE GO. Subscribe and follow.

When Billy Ojeda was diagnosed with a rare muscular disease in 2016, his family made it their mission to get him the best care possible – beginning years of frequent travel with Delta for various treatments.

To date, Billy and parents Chris and Steffie, and siblings Ily and Abbey Rose, have taken more than 600 flights with Delta from California to Florida. Each time, they said, the pilots, flight attendants, gate and ticket agents and reservations specialists have made the journey special.

“Delta has been there for us in the most profound and amazing ways. They have nothing but kindness, generosity and compassion for us,” Chris said recently. “It makes an incredible difference on such a difficult journey.”

The Ojedas said they’ve never missed or shown up late to any of Billy’s medical trials.  Chris first shared the details of their frequent travels and the lasting impression that Delta has made on his family in a personal letter to “The Delta Family,” which he handed to a pilot following one of his flights in February. Read the full letter from Chris below.

On June 13, 2017, my family flew on Delta for my son’s Make-A-Wish. Though my wife and I had flown on Delta before, it would be the first time for our children, Ily, Billy and Abby. Combined together my family has taken over 560 Delta flights. When Billy was diagnosed with a rare devastating terminal muscle wasting disease, I was ready to fly to the ends of the earth in the battle to save his life. Realizing there would be countless flights in our future, it made sense to select a single airline. We chose Delta.

Looking back, it was one of the greatest decisions we ever made on Billy’s Journey. While I often receive surveys following a flight, the limited scope would not be adequate with respect to our experiences. I have had the pleasure of speaking and interacting with countless members of the Delta family: ticket agents, gate agents, pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers and customer service agents. I am writing this letter to express our gratitude for your employees, who have consistently delivered an absolute “Best in Class” experience. Your team members have always exceeded my highest expectations and in every available opportunity went the extra mile.

Since July 2017, Billy has participated in multiple clinical trials. The continued participation in clinical trials requires perfect attendance for each scheduled site visit. Missing such visits means missing critical health and safety checks but also the risk of being disqualified and removed from the clinical trial itself. As to be expected with air travel, we have experienced occasional delays and even cancellations resulting from weather, technology, an insufficient flight crew, mechanical failures, and other circumstances.

On several occasions our flight crew notified our connecting flight we were delayed, but to expect us to make the flight. Often our pilot or co-pilot has personally retrieved Billy’s wheelchair, thereby saving us valuable time (that otherwise would be spent waiting on the jet way). Whenever there have been cancellations or delays, the gate and ticket agents have always taken care of us. Through the incredible efforts of your employees, we have never missed nor been late to a single clinical trial visit. When you factor in that this all occurred across an astounding number of flights, multiple years and even a pandemic, this is absolutely extraordinary.

Traveling with a child that has physical disabilities is quite challenging. Fortunately, we are always offered help with our carry-on luggage. This frees me up to focus on folding Billy’s wheelchair and helping him get to his seat. Many times, despite booking in advance, we are seated apart. The gate agents (sometimes even before I make a request) do their very best to seat us together. There were other times when delays resulted in us not getting food between connecting flights. I’ve never asked for more than a little water and a few snacks for my kids, but instead we are always presented an abundance of options for the whole family.

Previously when we flew out of SNA, the Red Coat Victor Pacheco would accompany us through TSA and to our gate. Victor would ask us about Billy’s clinical trial and how we were all doing. He was the real deal, pure gold, and his company was always the highlight of the trip.

I remember one flight becoming utterly overwhelmed by the crushing weight of Billy’s diagnosis. I had to look down and away so he would not see my tears. I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder. A soft whisper followed, “Are you okay?” Oh, how I tried desperately to speak, but no words ever came out. I shook my head to signal ‘No.’ The flight attendant Taffey Popp must have known I didn’t want to scare Billy by leaving him alone. Gesturing and speaking softly she said, ‘Those lavatories are empty, take as much time as you need. I’ll keep your son company.’” As I walked toward the lavatories, I could hear Taffey and Billy talking. I will never forget her compassion and thoughtfulness.

Our favorite trip would come as a complete surprise. The night before our trip, a Delta employee called asking if we could extend our layover in Atlanta. Having somehow learned of our story, Delta wanted to do something special for us. It began with being chauffeured to Delta headquarters in two Porsche vehicles just like VIP passengers.

Before the tour, Captain Rich Terry and First Officer Travis Blunt presented Billy with official Delta captain wings and made him an honorary B747 Captain for the day. Billy has always had a passion for planes and air travel, which made it even more special. Afterward, we enjoyed spending time with each department and learning about what they did. We even got to fly a real Boeing 747 flight simulator; an absolutely amazing experience. Our return to the airport continued with VIP treatment as we awaited our flight in the luxuries of the Delta Sky Club. Additionally, at our departure and arrival gates, our three children were presented with gift bags filled with cool things and plenty of treats.

Before we ever knew about the plans for such a special day, my wife and I were struggling quite a bit. To put it into perspective, the trip was in the middle of December. When most families were preparing for Christmas, we would instead be flying to Florida because our son was in the fight for his life. A day that had been overshadowed with dread turned out to be one of the most incredible and wonderful days of our lives. That day remains one of our most cherished family memories. On the day of Billy’s diagnosis, I could have never fathomed any silver linings on this journey. As the fog of grief began to lift, I realized they had been there all along.

One of the greatest silver linings on my son’s journey will always be the wonderful people I have encountered. That continues to be true with every trip we take with Delta Air Lines. I am both gobsmacked and humbled by the kindness, consideration, and generosity of the Delta family. Sir Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."

Thank you for giving so very much to my family on Billy’s Journey.

Warmest Regards,

Chris Ojeda

Related Topics