When a privately-chartered business jet, set to carry six war-era Fighter Aces from Los Angeles to Washington’s Reagan National Airport, had to undergo unscheduled maintenance, the talented airmen flew Delta.

They were bound for Washington, D.C., to join their compatriots in receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in America, at a ceremony Wednesday. The Museum of Flight in Seattle is the home of the American Fighter Aces Association and is convening the ceremony in DC to honor the Fighter Aces. 

Delta’s team in Seattle helped to arrange the alternate accommodations for the Aces.

Along the way, Delta pulled out all the stops. In the gate areas and on board, agents and flight crews led applause and made customers aware of the veteran honorees on board. Upon arrival their arrival to their connection in Atlanta, the volunteer Honor Guard, led by Brian McConnell, a below-wing Airport Customer Service Agent, heralded the aviators and their travel companions with dignified gatehouse tributes. Customers passing by as well as those waiting for their flights posted photos and videos to social media; many personally thanked the airmen for their service.

The men joined another 30 or so aviators in Washington, D.C., and are among 77 living fighter pilots who shot down five or more enemy fighters in air-to-air combat during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and other conflicts.

There have been 1,447 aviators to achieve the elite Aces designation.