When the Cute Guy on Your Flight Turns Out to be Your Seatmate


Boarding a flight to Boston from Los Angeles in January 2018, Alex Zhou noticed a cute guy helping someone with their bag. The guy, Eddie Lin Kay, turned out to be her seatmate.

She spent the flight with headphones on, watching “Merlin,” a TV show, on her iPad. Hours later, as the plane began its descent, the two introduced themselves and Mr. Kay said that if she liked “Merlin,” she would enjoy another show called “Chuck.”

They spoke as the plane landed and taxied, and as they made their way into the airport, an unusual move for Ms. Zhou. “Normally, I shut random strangers down very easily when they try to talk to me,” she said.

But when they reached a bathroom, Mr. Kay peeled off and they went their separate ways.

A week later, Ms. Zhou said she searched on Google: “What’s the threshold for adding a random person as a friend on Facebook?” The results said they should have mutual friends; they didn’t. She disregarded them and sent Mr. Kay an invite anyway.

The next day, Mr. Kay messaged her, they began chatting, and several weeks later, on Feb. 19, they went on their first date in Boston: lunch at the now-closed Gourmet Dumpling House. Mr. Kay chose the restaurant because Ms. Zhou, who was born and raised in Nanjing, China, told him that she missed quality Chinese food.

Ms. Zhou, 32, moved to the United States in 2009 to attend the University of Southern California, where she received a bachelor’s degree in international relations. She went on to receive a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She also received a master’s degree in economics from Brown, where she completed a Ph.D. in economics this week.

Mr. Kay, 41, was born in Elmhurst, Ill., but grew up in Irvine, Calif. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from M.I.T. and works as a director of engineering at Devoted Health, a company based in Waltham, Mass., that provides health care services to older Americans.

They planned to see “Black Panther” on their first date, but tickets were sold out. Seeing the movie was a good excuse for another meeting a few days later, though recently, Ms. Zhou confessed to Mr. Kay that she secretly saw the movie with a friend between their first and second date.

They began dating exclusively, met each other’s respective families in California and China, and bought a house together in North Providence, R.I., in 2020. In November 2021, they went shopping for engagement rings. “I’ve always wanted to get married,” Mr. Kay said. “I’m a romantic. I love watching romantic comedies, Korean dramas with love stories.”

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The next month, Ms. Zhou flew to Cambodia for field work, which was a part of her Ph.D. program. She returned at the end of January 2022, in time for Mr. Kay’s birthday, an occasion he hoped to use to propose. But his mother, a physician, advised Ms. Zhou to isolate to avoid spreading Covid-19.

“She hid in the guest room, doors closed, and we didn’t eat meals together or see each other for a week just to be safe,” Mr. Kay said of Ms. Zhou. The opportunity passed.

On Valentine’s Day a few weeks later, Mr. Kay thought he had another chance. He ordered takeout from their favorite restaurant and bought flowers. But as they started eating, he felt himself having an allergic reaction.

“Apparently the restaurant had messed up my order, which wasn’t supposed to have egg,” he said. He took Benadryl and a nap, and spent the rest of the evening monitoring his symptoms in case he needed to go to the hospital.

The third time was the charm. On March 5, 2022, he took Ms. Zhou to dinner in Boston at Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese barbecue restaurant. “I know Alex gets embarrassed easily and doesn’t like a public spectacle,” he said. So he kept the ring in his pocket until they were back in the car, where he finally asked her to marry him.

They held a wedding ceremony for 120 guests at Hakone Estate and Gardens in Saratoga, Calif., on April 6, with the cherry blossoms in bloom. They were officially married on April 18 in Cambridge, Mass., at the home of Cindy Jao, a friend of the couple who received a one-day solemnization from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to officiate their intimate ceremony.

The Chinese-American singer Katherine Ho, who sang Coldplay’s “Yellow” in Mandarin in the film “Crazy Rich Asians,” performed several songs, including one of Mr. Kay’s favorites, “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. Ms. Zhou’s family members flew in from China, and to accommodate them, the M.C. and D.J. were both bilingual. Ms. Zhou and her maid of honor translated the officiant’s speech as well as her and Mr. Kay’s vows into Mandarin.

“It was a dream wedding,” Mr. Kay said.



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