American Airlines pilot's heartfelt retirement speech on final flight after 32 years goes viral

A retiring pilot's emotional speech to passengers onboard his final flight has gone viral on social media, bringing many viewers to tears.  

To mark his last time in the pilot's seat after 32 years with American Airlines, Jeff Fell stood up in front of his passengers to deliver a heartfelt message commemorating the occasion, as his family watched on proudly from the back row.  

Speaking over the PA, Fell first welcomed the travellers before revealing his impending retirement, announcing Flight 2561 to Chicago would be his last - in the cockpit, at least.

"I normally don't stand up in front of everybody like this, I usually just stay in the cockpit and talk on the PA. If I get a little emotional, please forgive me for that," he said, reading from a sheet of paper.  

"I'd like to acknowledge a group of very important people to me that are onboard the flight. Most of them are in the back of the airplane and they're the majority of my family," he added, before being visibly overcome with emotion.  

Struggling to continue as he fought back tears, passengers began clapping to encourage him along, with Fell breaking into an appreciative smile.   

"They're onboard with me for my retirement flight after 32 years with American [Airlines]. Thank you all for coming along with me tonight to celebrate this very memorable time in my life. I love all of you. I didn't want to get emotional, goodness gracious," he went on, as the passengers broke into another round of applause.  

"Finally for my wonderful wife Julie, who has been at my side for the majority of my 32 years at American - she has been the solid rock in the foundation of our lives and our marriage. Her faith in the Lord, her wisdom, strength and love have guided our marriage and family throughout these years. I love you and I look forward to the next chapter in our lives," he concluded to whoops and applause, before hugging a staffer behind him.  

Capturing the tear-jerking moment, a flight crew member by the username @realjharrison shared the footage to TikTok, where it has since amassed over 3.3 million views and almost 605,000 likes at the time of writing.  

"Privileged to have been there for this," he captioned the footage, which has since been bombarded with thousands of comments expressing their well wishes for Fell.  

"To think of the number of families, people, and cultures he has single-handedly connected throughout the world. Thank you," one wrote, with a second adding: "His little script - just imagine him sitting there and typing it up the night before!"  

"Thirty-two years of safe landings also. God bless him & all pilots," a third wrote, while a fourth weighed in: "As a pilot's daughter this made me cry - I'll lose it when it's my dad's retirement flight."  

"I'd be crying and staring out the window the whole flight," another joked.  

According to reports, Fell was honoured with a water cannon salute, a tradition used to mark the retirement of a senior pilot or other event.  

Addressing the heartwarming moment on AM on Wednesday morning, the hosts pointed out the sentimentality and poignance of Fell's family being in the back row for his final flight in the captain's seat.  

Joking, newsreader Nicky Styris quipped: "They should've been up in business class."  

Watch the video above.