Everyone knows that romantic comedies generally start with a meet-cute. In this true travel tale, a more accurate term would be “seat-cute”
Act One takes place in the summer of 2019, on Flight UA1487 from Houston to Honduras. (Take note of that flight number.)
Ellie Stoffer, a fourth-grade teacher from Akron, Ohio, is traveling with a volunteer group to help at a hospital and orphanage in Central America. She’s sitting between an older woman flying home to Honduras and a man who appears to be traveling alone.
The man, Ryan Matlock, wasn’t originally supposed to be sitting next to her, but a few days before the flight he’d paid $15 to upgrade to a window seat in Economy Plus. When Ellie has trouble filling out her customs form, she asks Ryan for help and learns that he’s also traveling to Central America for volunteer work.
There’s an instant connection.
Since this is a modern love story, it’s Ellie who makes the first move: She suggests they follow each other on Instagram. Ryan and Ellie keep talking as they get off the plane and walk to customs until Ellie realizes she should join her group. She remembers the moment well: “I turned around to look for someone familiar,” she says, “and when I turned back, my latest Instagram follower was gone.”
Five months pass (likely with Ellie and Ryan wistfully staring out their windows at the sunset every evening), and then, one day, Ellie reacts to one of Ryan’s Instagram posts—and their conversations resume. At the start of 2020, Ryan flies from Dallas to visit Ellie for the first time since they saw each other on the airplane, and they begin to date long-distance.
For a while, they’re earning valuable flyer miles shuttling between Akron and Dallas but soon it’s March 2020, and something more insurmountable than miles is keeping them apart: the pandemic.
The time apart leads Ellie and Ryan to realize their love is forever, and Ryan decides to move to Akron. He packs up a U-Haul, making one last purchase before he sets off to Ellie’s hometown.
In July 2020, a year after they met, Ryan unveils his purchase, a ring, and asks Ellie to marry him.
Ellie says yes, and before she slips it on, Ryan tells her to look at what’s engraved on the band: UA1487.
Ryan and Ellie decide to semi-elope, having a small ceremony with their immediate families near Zion National Park in Utah, one of Ellie’s favorite places. Like their seat-cute, this next step in their relationship begins on a plane—but this time with United welcoming Ryan and Ellie on board with a gift, decorations, and Bruno Mars’s “Marry You” blasting over the speakers.
To those hoping for their own seat-cute this Valentine’s Day, Ryan and Ellie say their shared values were crucial, and that it’s important to look at yourself before looking outward: “When you know your worth and are boldly walking in your purpose, we believe the best love finds you,” Ellie says.
“And,” Ryan adds, “never hesitate to take advantage of upgrading your seat. It’s the best $15 I’ve ever spent!”