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Airline surprise for kids as Santa makes surprise visit
8:00am Wednesday 25th December 2013 in News
Pilots today made an airliner jolt in mid-flight as if Father Christmas had hopped on board before he handed out gifts to children with life-limiting diseases – amongst them a girl from Southampton.
Excited youngsters felt the Thomas Cook passenger jet 'jump' as if Santa and his reindeer had landed on top before the man himself appeared from the cabin.
The children on board the Airbus A321, from 28 different families, felt the magical bump at 7,000ft while they were trying to spot Santa out of the window.
He then stayed with them for the remainder of the flight before landing back at Gatwick Airport with the 138-strong flight at 2pm.
From there, the excited kids - many of whom were suffering from terminal illnesses including leukaemia, brain tumours and heart diseases - lined up outside his grotto at Arrivals for presents.
Santa handed out gifts - including Hamleys teddy bears and magic sets - to the kids as part of the festive stunt organised by holiday company Thomas Cook's children's charity.
The day meant that for a few hours, the children - along with their parents - were able to forget about their illnesses and enjoy the magic of Christmas.
Millie Law, 12, from Bassett, suffers from pulmonary hypertension and has had 26 operations in her young life.
She was on board the flight with brothers Ben, 14, and Theo, 6, as well as her parents Chris, 42, and Lucy, 39.
Millie, who attends The Gregg School, said: “It’s an amazing thing to happen really and I was really excited.”
This time last year, Millie was suffering from pneumonia while brother Ben was also hospitalised – so the family are enjoying a dramatic turn in the fortunes this year.
Dad Chris, a company director, added: “She was just three weeks old when she was diagnosed and she’s had so much surgery in her life. She’s so brave.”
Thomas Cook Children's Charity funded the day with assistance from airline passenger donations. Bauer radio and the children's charity Barnado's also supported the event.
At the check-in desk, staff dressed in Christmas jumpers and hats handed out sweets to the children while festive music played in the background.
The desk was lined with tinsel and decorated with gold and silver coloured mini Christmas trees and reindeer.
A couple members of staff were even dressed as Toy Story characters Buzz Lightyear and Woody.
In the departures lounge, the families and carers were treated to a packed lunch with their children, who had no idea what was to come on board.
On board the plane, the staff and parents sang carols with the children.
The flight left Gatwick at 1pm, flew towards Bournemouth, Dorset before heading east over the Isle of Wight and Brighton, Sussex, and returning to land at 2pm.
Santa's sleigh landing was simulated by the pilot wiggling the plane's control stick to create a 'bump', similar to the feeling of turbulence, over the south coast.
Joanna Wild, Chairperson of the Thomas Cook Children's Charity, said: "We fundraise throughout the year for our charity.
"The generosity of staff and holidaymakers means we can offer this Christmas moment of magic for these children and their families."
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