AN airline pilot has been hailed as a "hero" after he diverted his plane to ensure 15 Irish passengers did not miss vital cataract operations.
The group of mostly elderly patients were en route to Cardiff for long-awaited procedures under an EU scheme yesterday morning.
However, their Flybe flight was cancelled shortly before take-off due to fog in Wales.
The cancellation meant the patients would miss their appointments at St Joseph's Hospital in Newport and would end up back on the Irish health service's waiting list.
That was until Mary Aylward, an agent travelling with the group, explained the passengers' predicament to the pilot – who then persuaded his head office to allow him to divert to nearby Bristol to ensure the patients could attend their appointments.
St Joseph's medical director Ro Kulkarni said the relieved patients arrived tired and late but just in time to undergo their long-awaited operations.
"It was incredible and what it shows for me is that this could not happen but for good human nature,” he told Irish News. "All you need is good people everywhere and anything can happen."
Mr Kulkarni said he had stood down his surgeons and staff before he getting word that the flight was reinstated on Sunday morning.
"So, I had to rush back and tell my team, don't go home. They're coming after all," he said.
"They are all in the hospital now. The restaurant arranged a meal for them when they arrived and now we have three operations done and a fourth preparing to go in.”
Flybe said it was delighted that patients were able to make their appointments.
Meanwhile, it's fair to say that the unnamed Flybe pilot has won a few fans on social media.
One person wrote on Twitter: "Not all heroes wear capes, but a whole lot of them fly planes".
While another added: "Give that man a raise!"