A midflight marriage proposal Wednesday left an Alaska Airlines flight attendant so speechless she almost forgot to say yes.
Eric Greener, 30, proposed to Brandy Hollenbeck, 34, on a morning flight from Seattle to Juneau, surprising Hollenbeck and delighting passengers and the rest of the crew.
Greener is a pilot with Ravn Alaska. He had known for months that he wanted to surprise her with a midflight proposal, but the plan was put into motion with a "spur-of-the-moment" decision, he said.
The proposal was filmed by an Alaska Airlines employee. In it, Greener can be heard telling the story of how he and Hollenbeck met before he proposes over the airplane intercom.
From their Anchorage home Thursday, the couple recounted their love story and Greener's proposal at 34,000 feet.
'Best wing man I ever had'
Their story began with a chance meeting. In September 2012, Hollenbeck was working on a flight from Seattle to Anchorage when she started chatting with a woman sitting in first class.
"We really hit it off," Hollenbeck said. "She was telling me she was coming up to see her son."
Her son was a pilot, the woman said. As the flight ended, the woman told Hollenbeck to look for him.
Hollenbeck promised she would. She didn't.
To her, it was "just someone trying to hook me up with their kid, which happens all the time," Hollenbeck said.
Two months later, Hollenbeck was called in to work a flight to the North Slope. Sitting in Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, she grabbed a double cheeseburger as she waited for her shift to begin.
She noticed a man looking at her. She thought, "What's going on with this guy?" Hollenbeck said.
That man was Eric Greener. Greener said that in that moment, there were only two things on his mind. First, that the double cheeseburger she was eating looked delicious. Second, how great it was that she was noshing on a burger in her work attire, flouting the flight attendant image.
They struck up a conversation. Soon Hollenbeck realized: This was the guy she had been told about months before. She told Greener she had met his mother.
Greener's response: "No way."
His mother had told him about Hollenbeck too, describing her as "the perfect woman" for him.
He called his mother the next day. "I told her she's the best wingman I ever had, and she's like, 'What's a wingman?'" Greener said with a laugh.
Fast-forward two and a half years: The couple now live together in Anchorage. They work rotating schedules of two weeks on, two weeks off. When they have time off together, they travel. It's a "really great relationship," Hollenbeck said.
Greener had known since last summer that he wanted to propose. He saved money and bought an engagement ring. He wanted to propose in flight but wasn't sure when he could.
Meanwhile, Hollenbeck for months had tried to float the idea of marriage, but Greener always skirted the issue. She'd begun to worry that they would need to "have a talk" about it, she said.
Months of planning, one night to act
Greener realized Tuesday that his opportunity had arrived.
Hollenbeck was on the last leg of a four-day trip, about to leave Seattle on a "milk-run" flight through Southeast Alaska.
Talking to her on the phone Tuesday night, Greener realized that one of her good friends, a fellow flight attendant, would be onboard. That friend would help coordinate the proposal.
When Greener started asking Hollenbeck for details about when she would be home, she grew suspicious. She wondered: Was he trying to avoid her? Did he want to go ice fishing instead of seeing her?
She had no idea he was putting in motion a plan months in the making.
When Greener said goodnight and hung up the phone, he got up, "threw on some nice clothes and skedaddled to the airport," he said.
He took the red-eye to Seattle. A few hours later, operating on one hour of sleep, Greener was at the gate where Hollenbeck's flight would be boarding. He told the gate agents his plan and implored them to let him onboard.
They did. The gate agents blocked the aisle so Greener could sneak on the plane without Hollenbeck seeing him. As a pilot, Greener is allowed into the cockpit when not working, so he hid out with the other pilots during the flight.
Midway through the flight, one of the pilots pretended to need to use the restroom, allowing Greener to sneak out and get on the intercom.
Passenger Kevin Harun was onboard. He described the proposal as "another great Alaska moment."
Harun listened as a pilot got on the intercom and announced he would tell a story. The pilot said he flies in rural Alaska. During a shift one day he spotted a beautiful woman eating a double cheeseburger.
Listening to the story, Hollenbeck thought how familiar it sounded. Finally, "I look at a passenger and I go: This guy is telling my love story," she said.
The pilot continued speaking, saying it was fitting that at 34,000 feet, he would ask the question: "Brandy Hollenbeck, I've loved you since the moment I met you and I want to be the man for you for the rest of your life. Will you marry me?"
Hollenbeck looked shocked, Harun said, and he thought, "Oh my God, I hope this ends well."
Hollenbeck hadn't seen Greener in 19 days. She was so surprised and excited to see him that "I forgot to say yes," she said. A passenger had to remind her.
Greener popped out of the front of the airplane with a ring. She met him midway down the aisle, Harun said, and "the whole plane erupted into applause. Some people were crying."
The proposal was captured on video by a Seattle supervisor who had been clued in.
"The pilots were in on it, the gate agents were in on it, everyone was coordinating this proposal," Hollenbeck said. "I had no idea."
On Thursday, the couple were at their Anchorage home and had just started discussing wedding plans. They weren't sure when the ceremony would be, but Greener said it will likely be in Alaska.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing