Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Travel Perspective

I travel. Sometimes I travel a lot. Usually by airplane and rented automobile. I believe that good things happen when you just show up... Woody Allen said something similar years ago. I know that being willing to appear several thousand miles distant on short notice changes the dynamics in many situations. As Yogi Berra said "You can see a lot just by looking"...

When on airplanes, I love to watch people. The world has changed since I made my first flight on a Lockheed Constellation. Ladies and gentlemen seldom dress for travel. There is no lounge in the rear for adult beverages.The passengers may as well be going for an oil change or a quick six-pack and chips as London, Paris, Cairo or Buenos Aires... There is no longer a sense of adventure, no sense of magic about hundreds of thousands of pounds of metal, fuel and hundreds of humans leaping into the air and traveling across the world... I am amazed every time it happens.

The folks over at, led by Guy Herbert have been ranting in that superior smug way that only the Brits can about the evils of our "Security Theater." They find the inconvenience of being inspected an affront to their particular person. They see the randomly asigned dreaded "SSSSS" on their boarding pass as signifying some certain malevolent intent by the Minimum Wage Minions against them for some perverse delight. They cannot imagine that "It Happens" to all of us at one time or another...

I always enjoy watching the well educated and wealthy when faced with delays, frustrations and conditions beyond their control. The truly rich, and truly well educated persons make the best of the situation for themselves and those around them. The ones who demand special attention and special treatment are usually just poseurs who are wearing leased clothing, driving a company vehicle and living in leased apartment.

God puts snow on the ground and airplanes for everyone. TSA makes their regulations for everyone. The line workers are trained, grilled and trained again to deal with the public in the nicest possible way. They have been given instruction by the folks at Disney who have decades of moving large numbers of impatient children, cranky grandparents and insolent teenagers through the rope lines... I think they do a good job... We Americans like to see our security at work. Also, being an American, I am not shocked, amazed, or even concerned that the police are carrying a firearm. The Europeans and Australians always notice the weapon.

Given the above recent exchanges (go see the comments at Security Theater) it was a pleasant surprise to see on Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, Front page, Center Column this tale about an airline pilot. This guy is like the ones I grew up flying with. He is a throwback to the people who built airlines, who cared about the customer, who enjoyed their job and loved the daily miracles of a safe departure and landing.

I quit flying United years ago. I disliked their whole attitude of milking the passenger. I refuse to fly American Airlines because of their decades long running gun battle between the flight crews and management. As a passenger, I was paying a lot for the privilege of being an "innocent bystander" or pawn, depending on your view... If United has these kind of guys running things, I may go use some of my miles and buy a few more...

To a United Pilot,The Friendly Skies Are a Point of Pride
Capt. Flanagan Goes to Bat For His Harried Passengers; Still, Some Online Skeptics
August 28, 2007; Page A1

Capt. Denny Flanagan is a rare bird in today's frustration-filled air-travel world -- a pilot who goes out of his way to make flying fun for passengers.

When pets travel in cargo compartments, the United Airlines veteran snaps pictures of them with his cellphone camera, then shows owners that their animals are on board. In the air, he has flight attendants raffle off 10% discount coupons and unopened bottles of wine. He writes notes to first-class passengers and elite-level frequent fliers on the back of his business cards, addressing them by name and thanking them for their business. If flights are delayed or diverted to other cities because of storms, Capt. Flanagan tries to find a McDonald's where he can order 200 hamburgers, or a snack shop that has apples or bananas he can hand out.
Read the whole thing...

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