Pilot's emotional retirement speech brings plane passengers to TEARS

American Airlines pilot’s emotional retirement speech leaves the internet in TEARS – as he pays tribute to his wife and family on the final flight of his 32-YEAR career

  • Jeff Fell addressed passengers at the top of his final flight with American Airlines
  • The pilot thanked his passengers, many of whom were his family members  
  • ‘I didn’t want to get emotional, but goodness gracious,’ he said through tears

A pilot’s emotional two-minute speech during his last flight before retirement has left plane passengers in tears. 

In a TikTok video, Jeff Fell is seen taking to the aisle to address his passengers one final time before takeoff.

‘First of all, good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome aboard American’s Flight 2561 to the Chicago O’Hare International Airport,’ he began in the clip, captured by Justin Harrison, before introducing himself and stating the expected flight time and weather conditions.

‘I normally don’t stand up in front of everybody like this. I usually just stay on the cockpit and talk on the PA.

Pilot Jeff Fell made an emotional speech before takeoff on his final flight before retirement

The pilot had been flying for American Airlines for 32 years

The TikTok creator also captured the moment the plane taxied through a ‘water salute’ – traditionally performed in honor of a retiring pilot

The second video revealed the view from the passenger’s window as the exterior of the plane was doused in water from the ‘water salute’ 

As it taxied under the archway of water, the plane appeared to be headed into an idyllic sunset

‘And if I get a little emotional, please forgive me for that,’ he continued, adding: ‘I’d like to take just a few moments of your time before we take off to Chicago tonight.’

He then said he wanted to ‘acknowledge a group of very important people to me that are on board the flight. Most of them are in the back of the airplane, and they’re the majority of my family, who have come along with me on my retirement flight.’

‘They’re on board with me for my retirement flight after 32 years with American,’ he further stated, his voice cracking.

‘Thank you all for coming along with me tonight and celebrating this very memorable time in my life. I love all of you. And also, I didn’t want to get emotional, but goodness gracious.’

Jeff then publicly thanked his wife, Julie, saying she’d ‘been at my side for the majority of my 32 years at American: She has been the rock, 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 said.

Still tearing up, he concluded: ‘I love you and look forward to the next chapter in our lives. And welcome aboard, everybody.’

Commenters likewise became misty-eyed watching the clip.


Commenters admitted to also getting misty-eyed while watching the speech and a follow-up video depicting the plane during a ‘water salute’ performed in honor of the pilot’s retirement 

‘Him thanking his wife I’m SOBBINGGGGG,’ one wrote.

‘As a pilot’s daughter this made me cry… I’ll lose it when it’s my dad’s retirement flight,’ a second echoed.

‘Oh I would start balling my eyes out,’ a third agreed.

‘Think about all the people he’s transported from one place to another,’ a fourth reflected.

‘To think of the amount of families, people, and cultures he has single handedly connected throughout the world. Thank you!’ another added. 

A follow-up video shared by the same account revealed a view from a passenger window of a plane as nearby firetrucks executed a water salute – a practice in which two firetrucks parked on either side of a runway create an archway of water that the aircraft passes under as a tradition to honor a retiring pilot. 

The clip captured the moment the fire hose spraying from one side of the plane doused the passenger’s window with water – before cutting to a clip of an idyllic exterior shot of the aircraft as it taxied under the two jets of water, seemingly headed into a gorgeous sunset on the horizon.

‘Not me crying over a stranger,’ one viewer gushed on the water salute post.

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