Pay it forward: Southwest Airlines employee goes above and beyond


by Carey Peña / 3TV News @ 10!

Bio | Email | Follow: @@azfamily

Posted on September 7, 2011 at 10:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 7 at 10:42 PM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – “I was shocked,” Valley entrepreneur Chris Lee told us when we met him at a coffee house in Scottsdale. He went on to say, “I guess maybe I underestimate people sometimes.”

Here’s what happened. When Lee left his iPad on the airplane after a recent flight, he thought it was a done deal.

Lee explains, “I made three to four rounds around my house and realized it was gone. Then I remembered I left it in the seat pocket in front of me. I freaked out.”

He tried getting in touch with Southwest Airlines. Lee, an active social media user, even sent them a tweet about his lost iPad.  

“I thought it was gone, totally gone. I had little hope I would get it back.” Lee said.

Enter John San Diego. San Diego has worked with Southwest Airlines for 17 years. He’s a mechanic and he was checking the inside of the plane when he spotted Lee’s iPad.

“Oh boy, somebody is gonna be missing this,” said San Diego, “Who knows what kind of information he had on it – personal information and photos of his family.”

San Diego didn’t think twice. He took the iPad and made sure it was returned to its owner.

Lee says he was overwhelmed. In fact, he wanted to give San Diego money as a thank you but San Diego wouldn’t accept.

Instead he told Lee, “You need to spend that money on your kids.”

To San Diego the whole thing is really pretty simple. “When you do something for somebody, do it because you want to help them, not because you want something in return.”

Before Chris Lee left the coffee house with his wife and three kids – and iPad in hand – he said again, “I just didn’t think anybody was gonna return it. It’s a pay it forward moment.”