In Memoriam: Kevin Pinto

“J ust a quick note to say that my Oncologist advised me that my glioblastoma is now in remission” was the first line in an e-mail message from Saturday, May 9, 2015 of which I was one of the recipients. “Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and contributions.”

That e-mail message was from none other than a gentleman named Kevin Pinto, who concluded with “You guy’s are the best!!!” with a salutation of “Love, Kevin” — and Kevin did not use the word love lightly for as long as I have known him.

When I first learned that Kevin Pinto was diagnosed with brain cancer, I sent him a detailed e-mail message the day after his birthday — which was on Saturday, November 9, 2013 — wishing him a happy birthday. He responded with the following:

Hello Brian,

I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful email – it has really touched my heart.

Well, I had an incident a month ago where the gleo blastomia in my head became an issue and I am now battliing this.  I am working with Emory Healthcare, so we will see what happens over the next few months.

Thanks so much for all your appreciation – you are a very nice man.

Talk to you soon,

Best Regards,

Kevin

In fact, his diagnosis was the reason why I asked you to please send a birthday card to him in November of 2014 — but I could not reveal the reason at that time with respect to his privacy.

In Memoriam: Kevin Pinto

Kevin Francis Pinto — who was also known as FlyerTalk member Kevin_SkyMiles Promotions when he used to work for Delta Air Lines — lost his life at 61 years of age on Saturday, October 8, 2016 after fighting brain cancer for greater than three years. He was at home in West Palm Beach with his family by his side at the time of his death.

Kevin has been long appreciated in the Delta Air Lines | SkyMiles forum on FlyerTalk. This discussion — launched almost 16 years ago by FlyerTalk member mikey1003 — expresses appreciation for Kevin after FlyerTalk members were initially disgruntled with Delta Air Lines. In fact — due to his outstanding work over the years — some FlyerTalk members referred to Kevin Pinto as “he who walks on water.”

Kevin Pinto brick

This brick is in honor of Kevin Pinto and is outside of the Delta Flight Museum. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

FlyerTalk members even contributed to a fund to purchase a brick in his honor at the Delta Flight Museum — and Kevin knew about it, as he was genuinely touched by the gesture.

His claim to fame in the frequent flier community was arguably most prevalent when Delta Air Lines had a popular promotion — which will most likely never be repeated because it was so insanely rewarding — back in 2010 where you could have earned double Medallion Qualification Miles plus up to 50,000 bonus SkyMiles per round-trip.

The problem was that many FlyerTalk members — including myself — had problems with their accounts being properly credited. Virtually anyone who contacted him regarding this now-infamous discrepancy had their accounts corrected within the hour — and dozens of people would be a conservative estimate.

In my specific case, he not only corrected the issues I experienced within 30 minutes and notified me via an e-mail message; but he also added SkyMiles to my account which I did not even realize I legitimately earned through that promotion despite my calculations! This typified the character and resolve of a person like Kevin.

Kevin was typically a little embarrassed and uncomfortable by all the praise foisted upon him over the years, as he was rather shy and did not like being the focus of attention. He was the type of person who eschewed anything fancy for simply a good steak and an ice cold bottle of beer as part of a good meal. According to his official obituary, he “loved God, his family, his friends, his neighbors, his job and his Country and was a completely self-less person, putting everyone’s needs before his own. He lived his life serving others…period; whether at work or in his personal life.”

Kevin also enjoyed sports and loved to travel. He appreciated the simple joys in life and anything related to nature: a beautiful sky, snow-capped mountains, fall leaves and the horizon on the ocean. “He had a great sense of humor that always brought a smile to your face and laugh to your heart…when you needed it most.”

Brian Cohen shares a few thoughts in honoring Kevin Pinto during a celebration in his honor at the Delta Heritage Museum on March 18, 2013. Photograph ©2013 by Greg Johnston.

Brian Cohen shares a few thoughts in honoring Kevin Pinto during a celebration in his honor at the Delta Heritage Museum on March 18, 2013. Photograph ©2013 by Greg Johnston.

In my many conversations in person with Kevin, I have mentioned how valuable FlyerTalk members perceive he is to Delta Air Lines — including those who believe that he “walks on water.” With a polite smile underlying his slight discomfort to being referred in such a high regard, Kevin has repeatedly dismissed his legendary status to FlyerTalk members by modestly saying that he was “merely doing his job” and that he would do whatever he could to assist customers of Delta Air Lines — even if the request fell outside of the scope of his job.

When I joked to him about what if someone complained that there was no milk served on a flight, he laughed and simply said that he would pass on the request to the proper department.

“All I wanted to do was make sure customers were happy as soon as possible,” he said to me. “It is so simple. Why should I delay that when I could do it right there and then?!?”

He had a point with which I could not argue — and he worked hard to ensure that customer satisfaction was first and foremost.

Because of his now-renowned work in assisting FlyerTalk members, it is important to note that Kevin Pinto officially worked for the Marketing department of Delta Air Lines and not for the SkyMiles department — although it is easy to realize why many FlyerTalk members would have arrived at that mistaken conclusion. As his job title explained, Kevin worked with worldwide marketing communications, programs and recognition — which included various SkyMiles promotions.

As one of the dozens of Delta Air Lines employees who volunteered his time at The 2010 Second Annual Delta Air Lines FlyerTalk Event, Kevin assisted FlyerTalk members by personally directing them to follow him to their assigned flight simulators for each of them to receive time in being a “pilot.” With many different flight simulators located in different buildings at the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines — and with 80 FlyerTalk members awaiting their turn at this memorable opportunity to pilot a real flight simulator where time was a critical factor — Kevin ensured that everyone received their turn.

Randy Petersen honors Kevin Pinto with “Pinto Medallion ‘lifetime’ status” which is guaranteed never to expire at an event which honored Kevin on March 18, 2013. Photograph ©2013 by Greg Johnston.

Randy Petersen honors Kevin Pinto with “Pinto Medallion ‘lifetime’ status” which is guaranteed never to expire at an event which honored Kevin on March 18, 2013. Photograph ©2013 by Greg Johnston.

His last official day of his employment with Delta Air Lines — he handled the worldwide marketing communications, programs and recognition — was Monday, December 31, 2012, as he left Delta Air Lines on the best of terms because he was simply offered an “early-out package” which he could not refuse.

For what it is worth, I did not blame him one bit for retiring.

FlyerTalk members threw an amazing celebration of his retirement from Delta Air Lines on Monday, March 18, 2013 — with his permission and approval, of course — in honor of all which he has done for the frequent flier community. The photograph at the top of this article is from that celebration.

The History of Kevin Pinto in Commercial Aviation

The following text is derived directly from his obituary — his funeral occurred earlier today in West Palm Beach — unedited by me other than the addition of paragraph breaks for improved legibility.

Kevin’s interest in the airline industry led him to a position with then, National Airlines as an Operations Record Specialist, from 1978 – 1980. He managed the day-to-day operations of National Airlines Flight Control process.

After the merge of National Airlines and Pan American World Airways, Kevin managed the “Round-The -World” desk for Pan Am, from 1980-1984.

From 1984-1988 he was Supervisor of Resource Management Center; Managed call distribution for Pan Am throughout the domestic Reservations Sales Network.

From 1989- 1991 Kevin was Manager of Computer Assisted Instruction for Pan Am in which he diligently developed and launched Pan Am’s first computer based training curriculum.

With the demised of Pan American World Airways in 1991, Atlanta based carrier Delta Air Lines, offered Kevin the position of Sales Analyst – Reservation Sales.

Kevin always strove for excellence and perfection in his work…in everything he did.

Now, Delta Air Lines was his new passion.

From 1991 thru 2012 Kevin developed all corporate training material for ALL Reservations Sales and Managed it; Developed and implemented the entire SkyMiles loyalty program; Sky Team international alliances; Sky Wish Charity Program for Delta Airlines.

Systems Manager for SkyMiles; official company spokesperson for the SkyMIles program for the Delta Air Lines.

Manager- SkyMiles Promotions; General Manager: SkyMiles Communications and Promotions: Managing all Delta and SkyMiles communications and promotional activity, worldwide.

Kevin retired from Delta Air Lines in 2012 as Manager of Worldwide Marketing Promotions. He earned the affectionate title of Mr. SkyMiles based on his knowledge, commitment and dedication to his Work and career. He was Mr. SkyMiles. It was his baby and very proud of yet humble to a fault!!

More Information About Glioblastoma

“Glioblastomas (GBM) are tumors that arise from astrocytes—the star-shaped cells that make up the ‘glue-like,’ or supportive tissue of the brain”, according to this article from the American Brain Tumor Association. “These tumors are usually highly malignant (cancerous) because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a large network of blood vessels.”

This is the dreaded disease which Kevin Pinto was forced to fight — and I had never heard of it before learning of the diagnosis of Kevin.

The odds of surviving glioblastoma are not good. “For adults with more aggressive glioblastoma, treated with concurrent temozolamide and radiation therapy, median survival is about 14.6 months and two-year survival is 30%. However, a 2009 study reported that almost 10% of patients with glioblastoma may live five years or longer.”

I am saddened that Kevin Pinto was not one of the ten percent — although he did survive for more than three years.

Summary

This was an incredibly difficult article to write — significantly more so that the past ones pertaining to FlyerTalk members who have departed. It took me several days to collect my thoughts before I could even write this tribute to him; but I do not believe I could ever collect them enough to honor the memory of Kevin Pinto quite like I would have ultimately wanted.

I am honored to have known Kevin personally for the past several years; and have always enjoyed seeing him in person. He was modest and unassuming, honest and dedicated, trustworthy and amiable, and absolutely believed in doing the right thing. For example, Kevin had quietly committed to attending this gathering of FlyerTalk members, but had to cancel two days before the event, citing that “with my impending departure from Delta on December 31, 2012, I now have meetings scheduled for this entire upcoming week. I have to begin transitioning my work to other folks.” Kevin — a carnivorous native of New Jersey who was looking forward to consuming overstuffed pastrami sandwiches from Ben’s Kosher Deli in New York — could have simply said to his colleagues that he was taking a Tuesday off, thinking to himself that he was already leaving anyway at the end of the year…

…but then, that would not be the work ethic of the Kevin Pinto we all knew and quite deservedly respected.

I have written a number of articles this month pertaining to breast cancer awareness and research; but there are so many other types of cancer — so many other types of diseases — which people suffer and need awareness and research. While I would like to see breast cancer eradicated as much as anyone else, sometimes I wonder if all of the attention it receives is unfair to those people who suffer from glioblastoma, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and countless other scourges which plague the health of millions of people.

There are three places to where you can pay your respects and thoughts to Kevin Pinto: either at the “tribute wall” of his obituary, where you can leave a message and photographs; you can post your fond memories of him in this discussion on FlyerTalk which celebrates his memory; or you can use the Comments section below this article.

I would be lying to you if I said to you that reading through the past e-mail messages sent to me from Kevin Pinto did not have me tearing up while writing this article, trying to see what I am typing. My condolences go out to members of his family, who most certainly miss him dearly.

Every company should have a team of people like the exceptional Kevin Pinto. The world of business — and not just airlines — would be a far better place. The world in general is both better off for having a man such as Kevin Pinto living in it — and yet worse off for losing him, as he will be sorely missed.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Except as noted, all photographs ©2013 by Greg Johnston.

11 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Kevin Pinto”

  1. Greg says:

    Brian-

    Thank you for writing this moving tribute to the life of Kevin Pinto, not only touching on his contributions to the airline industry, but also offering the comfort that he had lived a richly satisfying life, one in which there is no doubt he enjoyed with full awareness of the remarkable things in his presence. It is a model for a life well lived.

  2. Paul S says:

    Very moving, indeed; Kevin sounds like one of the ‘good guys’. You’re correct, business in America would be far better off with more people like him. Consider the recent Wells Fargo scandal of opening accounts without customers’ knowledge/permission. It came from the top, it corrupted the bottom. So, the point is that people like Kevin are that much more appreciated.

  3. Charlie says:

    Thanks, Brian, for writing this wonderful piece. I had corresponded with Kevin many times over the years and though we never met in person, he always acted like we had and was the complete gentleman. Prayers for his family during this time.

  4. Rust says:

    I did not know Kevin but for this brief moment you have brought to life for me what was an inspirational and exceptional man. Thank you for this writing.

  5. Mark R. says:

    I finally got to meet Kevin, in person, at the 2010 FlyerTalk event on the Delta campus – he was as personable in the flesh as he was when emailing with you.

  6. Rory Lavender says:

    Brian, thank you for this lovely tribute for my dear friend Kevin. I just happened to come across it and shared it on my Facebook page. His family was grateful to read it and learn of the brick which honors him.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you, Rory Lavender. That tribute came from the heart; and I had to read that article again…several times.

      Would you mind please posting a link to where you shared it on Facebook?

      1. Rory Lavender says:

        I shared it on my personal page: https://www.facebook.com/rorylavender
        using this link: http://thegate.boardingarea.com/in-memoriam-kevin-pinto/

        Friend me on Facebook to see it or tag yourself. Can’t see how to send you the actual URL of FB details + post. All I can do is share it. I know that Kevin’s sister Margie O’Reilly was very touched by the tribute and shared it as well.

        1. Rory Lavender says:

          Brian, it has been shared on Kevin’s FB page as well by his sister Margie:

          https://www.facebook.com/kevin.pinto.353

        2. Brian Cohen says:

          I would “friend” you, Rory Lavender — but I am not a member of Facebook.

          Regardless, thank you for sharing…

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