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Safety First, Fun Next

Afton Benassi and her husband, Dave, bring extra bliss to the friendly skies

Author Ryan Hood

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When a customer on board a recent flight told the flight attendants she’d left her iPad at the security checkpoint, she was nearly resigned to losing the tablet for good. Customers and crew were already on board and the door was moments from closing.

What happened next left everyone in awe.

“First Officer [Afton Benassi] came out,” another customer on board the aircraft wrote in a letter to United. “She said TSA had the iPad but someone would need to go get it. The attendants replied they couldn’t make it—the door was closed already and the gate was near the end of the concourse. Afton looked at the flight attendants inquisitively and said, ‘Oh no! I didn’t mean you. I’ll get it. Please open the door.’”

Nine minutes later, her sprint to and from the checkpoint completed, Benassi was back with the customer’s lost iPad in hand. “At least I don’t have to do the treadmill at the hotel tonight!” she exclaimed.

“We weren’t a single minute late,” said the customer who wrote about the experience, “but the whole flight took on a different vibe. Everyone in first class smiled. The flight attendants did, too. I’m sure the passenger smiled every time she looked at her iPad. It was the single coolest thing I’ve ever seen any airline employee do.”

It was just another day on the job for Benassi, an affable A-320 first officer whose laughter and positive energy fill every room she enters.

“It’s so easy to be nice to people,” Benassi says. “What an opportunity we have, to come to work, enjoy our job, enjoy who we’re working with and work with so many others who are excited to be here. I’d much rather be laughing and having a good time. It makes the job so much more fun. Safety first, fun next.”

Benassi grew up a self-described “airline brat”—her mother spent 32 years in the industry as a sales rep. Benassi majored in business in college, but aviation was in her blood, so she looked to the skies. She attended flight school in Florida, where she met her husband, Dave, and she joined United in 2013. As she left her interview, the secretary notified her that Dave had just been contacted for an interview. He started at United two months after her, and both
have worked here ever since.

Dave flies the Boeing 737, so they haven’t worked the same flight at United, but they look to fly similar schedules so they can spend their free time together. Neither will forget the time, while flying for United Express carrier ExpressJet, they worked the same flight.

“I warned him: If we ever flew together, the only thing I would ask as a first officer that I would never ask another captain is for him to do the pre-flight safety walk-around, since that’s the nice, chivalrous, husbandly thing to do,” Afton says.

“I said I’d do it if it’s not raining,” Dave quips.

Sure enough, it was raining for the next flight they worked together. For a few minutes before departure, Dave was nowhere to be found— because he was doing the walk-around.

That was just one of the many memorable days the Benassis have already experienced in their up-and-coming careers.

“When we fly, we’re taking someone home to see their loved ones, taking them on a business trip, to a funeral, off to college, maybe to the vacation they’ve been saving for,” Afton says. “That’s what we do as pilots, and that’s what’s so cool about our jobs.

“United is a goal. Everyone’s excited to be here and excited about the future of United Airlines. I know we are, and we definitely have a vested interest in this company.”

The Benassis bought their first home this year and are expecting their first baby in early December.

“With both of us getting to work here,” Afton says, “we feel like we won the lottery.”

One Response to “Safety First, Fun Next”

  1. Steve Kohuth Says:
    August 3rd, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Now that's the friendly Skies, way to go Afton!!

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