Denny Flanagan: The Final Flight Piloted by the Captain Will Be…

Denny Flanagan

Denny Flanagan is a veteran pilot and captain at United Airlines and is well known amongst frequent fliers — regardless of airline affiliation — and the final flight on which he will officially pilot for United Airlines has been announced.

Back on Friday, August 29, 2014, I received an e-mail message from the beloved captain — whom I have met several times — which announced that there were fewer than two years before his retirement; and in that e-mail message was the following request:

“We connected through the years because of my proactive approach with you, my customers. I do not want to leave without having someone carry my torch and keep it burning.

“Here is how you can help. Last week a customer received my business card and posted it on LinkedIn. It has been getting some positive feedback. So if you are in the service business keep my torch lit by becoming personal with your customers.”

Denny Flanagan: The Final Flight Piloted by the Captain Will Be…

…Tuesday, May 31, 2016 on United Airlines flight 670 from Seattle to Chicago; and that flight seems to be the hottest ticket in town — or out of town, for that matter — as United Airlines has currently blocked the Y revenue cabin, according to FlyerTalk member Pat89339. “We do not know when or if they will release any seats. However, award travel is available in both cabins at the standard award level”, she posted. ”Mrs. Captain Denny and two of his five children will also be on board. They are working on the scheduling conflicts for the other children.”

Members of the press will also be aboard the airplane for the final United Airlines flight to be piloted by Flanagan.

The Article Written by a Customer and Posted on LinkedIn

Denny Flanagan pizza
Passengers of a delayed flight were treated to pizza — personally delivered by the beloved captain himself. Photograph courtesy of Denny Flanagan.

Also included in the aforementioned e-mail message was a link to an article written by Wade Burgess — the aforementioned customer who thought he was going to be a passenger on just another typical and boring flight to San Francisco on an airplane operated by United Airlines…

…but that airplane was piloted by none other than Denny Flanagan — also known to frequent fliers as the more familiar Capt. Denny, which is how he signs his e-mail messages. He greeted Wade Burgess and other passengers with a smile as he welcomed them aboard the aircraft. Approximately two hours into the flight, frequent fliers and passengers seated in the business class cabin each received a handwritten note from Denny Flanagan expressing that they are valued customers and that their business is greatly appreciated; as well as a request on how the flight crew can exceed their expectations.

“I looked around and saw that all of the frequent fliers and business class passengers were reading similar cards and smiling”, wrote Burgess, who admitted that he is not easily impressed. “What a brilliant move. This captain probably created a greater personal connection to his company in 30 seconds than the formal loyalty program has in 30 years. I immediately started thinking about how I could apply this to my business. I encourage you to do the same.”

Other Information

During his remarkable career, you might already know that Denny Flanagan has been quite generous pertaining to supporting the Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund every year — such as back in January of 2014, for example.

Denny Flanagan Simbah
Simbah goes for a walk on the tarmac at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Photograph courtesy of Denny Flanagan.

He also contributes to the column Ask the Captain here at InsideFlyer.


If you want the opportunity to be a passenger on the final commercial flight piloted by Denny Flanagan, the remainder of April and the month of May of 2016 will be your final opportunity to do so.

Denny Flanagan  — arguably the most popular captain of United Airlines and truly a remarkable person, in my opinion — is a man of his word; and he consistently has put the customer first during his tenure as a pilot. I respect people who stand behind what they say they will do, as there are not many people like Flanagan in this world. We can all learn a lot from people like him. If they can do it, we can do it too — and the world would be a better place in general as a result.

In the meantime, please join me in wishing Denny Flanagan a joyous, healthy and prosperous retirement — and please post your thoughts and experiences pertaining to this man, who truly exemplifies leadership in every sense of the word and has deservedly become a legend amongst frequent fliers, other passengers and colleagues alike.

All photographs courtesy of Denny Flanagan.


  1. Kevin Holdash says

    Captain Danny,

    I only met you briefly while being honored to share a fun season of my AAU Basketball teams all because of my wonderfull Twins Kalli & Kerri. Who became friends with Hannah along the way. I’ve visited your barn, now we have 25+ chickens that the girls take care of. Which Hannah showed them. Of which is a part of your doing.

    Also I’ve been a wanna be pilot since my the days of my youth. I occasssionly fly out of Wadsworth with a commercial Broker friend of mine in his Bonanza. I remember having Hannah over in Independence and you were calling Hanna to look up in the sky one evening telling her to look up in the sky . You were saying hello passing bye. How cool of a Dad to take a moment and call one of his kids. The look on Hanna’s face of being so proud of taking that call.

    I wish you many of the finest things that a Retirement can bring, especially good Health for you and all your family.

    Congratulations Captain and carry on, Sincerely & best regards,

    Kevin Holdash

  2. John Sapola says

    Captain Denny
    The desire to reach for the sky runs deep in our human psyche. ~Cesar Pelli
    You have reached far higher than most.
    Enjoy your retirement my friend !

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