A United Airlines flight turned into an emotional rollercoaster for a passenger who was left devastated by a man who body-shamed her—until another passenger swooped in to set things right.
In a Facebook post, Savannah Phillips described how the man seated beside her on a flight to Illinois from Oklahoma left her in tears after he sent a text message within her view calling her a “smelly fatty.”
Phllips said she usually tries to “sit in a row where I don’t have to sit next to anyone. I’m not the biggest person on the airplane, but I’m not the smallest. My worst nightmare is someone being uncomfortable because they have to sit next to me,” she said.
However, on this particular flight, Phillips was unable to select her seat and ended up being seated next to a man who left her “shocked” and crying before the plane even took off.
The man, who Phillips said appeared to be around 60 years old, had written the message in a “huge” font with the screen brightness “turned all the way up.”
“His phone was maybe 12 inches from my face and he proceeded to text someone that he was sitting next to a ‘smelly fatty,'” Phillips said.
“Before I knew it, I could feel hot, salty tears coming down my face,” she said. “I sat and cried silently hoping this guy didn’t try to make small talk because I didn’t trust how I would react and I didn’t want to get kicked off the plane. I was so hurt. I was shocked and it was like confirmation of the negative things I think about myself on a daily basis,” Phillips said.
As she sat there silently crying, Phillips said the flight’s pilot announced there would be a 30-minute delay before take-off, furthering the woman’s dread of having to spend more time “next to this creep.”
After 10 minutes, Phillips was surprised to see someone seated behind her, later identified as Chase Irwin, tap the man’s shoulder and say, “Hey, I need to talk to you.”
“We are switching seats. Now,” Irwin said, according to Phillips. After the passenger seated beside her asked why, the man replied: “You are texting about her and I’m not putting up with that.”
“[He] comes and sits next to me and is shocked when he sees me crying,” Phillips wrote. “He asked if I saw the texts and I nodded yes. He encouraged me not to let that guy get to me and that everything was going to be fine,” she said.
Irwin, a father who works as a general manager at Dierks Whiskey Row in Nashville, and Phillips talked about their families, their jobs and other things.
“He said he just happened to see that guy’s text messages and he started shaking he was so mad and knew he had to do something,” Phillips said.
“He stopped the flight attendant and told her what he was about to do. I told him ‘thank you’ for what he did and that it meant the world to me—and that he would be my husband’s favorite person.”
Phillips said a flight attendant also praised Irwin, offering him free drinks and telling him he was her “hero.”
“He wasn’t her hero—he was mine,” Phillips said, comparing Irwin to a guardian angel.
“I told him that yesterday at church, one of my favorite people on the planet, Jeff McMillon, talked about how God sees you. Good time, bad times, in a mess—your own fault or not—God sees you. And God saw me today. I told him that he was a blessing sent to me and how thankful I was that he was there,” she said.
Ultimately, Phillips said the experience left her confident that “there are more good people in the world than bad.”
Posting a story about the incident to Facebook, Dierks Whiskey Row said it was “so proud” to share the story about Irwin.
“Thank you to everyone who has messaged us regarding this story,” the company said. “It has warmed the heart of our entire team.”
The company wasn’t alone in praising the general manager and father; social media sites have been flooded with words of praise, calling Irwin an “outstanding citizen” and a “hero.”
Phillips and Irwin have not responded to a request for comment.