First, I am more convinced than ever that we must as a country stop kicking ourselves in the “you know where” and get with the program. I keep hearing how the debt problem means we can’t invest in infrastructure. Getting the feds out of the damn way and letting airports generate their own resources builds infrastructure in a way that does not increase federal spending or the debt and can reduce both. I can see the positive impact this can have at all the places I visited. The term “no brainer” was invented for this. Unfortunately they also have a term for what we, as a country, are doing to ourselves: “self-inflicted wound.” (And yes, kicking our own asses!!!). We are holding our own selves back!
I am always so impressed with the caliber of people who run our airports and always return from such trips honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization. The men and women who lead our airports, the directors and all those who work for them, would be the best in any industry and we are lucky to have them. Maureen Riley, Randy Berg, Tamra Turpin and Deborah Loertscher at Salt Lake, John Martin at San Francisco and Thella Bowens, Matt Harris and Amy Caldera at San Diego — all of whom I saw on this trip– do such a wonderful job and do it with intelligence and passion. Those are just the people I saw at those places, and even at those three airports there are so many others.
I had a chance to meet and spend some time with Capt. Sully Sullenberger. He really is a fine gentleman. Someone once told me you can judge a person by how they treat people like waiters and waitresses. I think I do pretty well but he set a new standard. He just signed on with CBS News to provide commentary on aviation matters and we are all lucky to have people like him out there speaking up.
I also spent a lot of time on United. A few comments:
Without fail I found great service from the cabin crew and the pilots did a good job of updating us on any possible delays, as did the gate staff. On the flight home from San Diego last night, the first class cabin left some wine in the bottles so I got a free glass of Shiraz. Very nice touch.
On the flip side: please stop brow beating passengers into sitting down so we can have an on time departure. Maybe it’s because I know how your compensation is figured but it sounds like people are being herded and harangued.
To the airline: the trip from San Diego to D.C. was more than 4 hours. The poor cabin staff had to explain to people that they didn’t have much to offer as “buy on board” because the plane hadn’t been stocked with enough. That’s unacceptable.
Also, our flight landed at Dulles 20 minutes late, not bad considering a late arriving aircraft meant we left San Diego a half hour late. But there were families on board who likely were going to miss connections to foreign destinations. Those connect times for those kinds of flights are just too tight. A 20 minute delay shouldn’t be enough to make you miss your international flight.
It was a quick trip, IAD-SLC-SFO-SAN-IAD in just over 72 hours. It felt like a campaign swing (no babies to kiss though). It was exhilarating to see how many good people are out there making the system work and it reinforced my frustration about what, absent a few common sense policy changes, we are doing as a country to hold ourselves back.
A closing note: these days, efforts to detect, prevent and cure breast cancer are common. The same is true for efforts to combat addiction. This was not always the case; there was a time when those things were kept quiet. The fact that things changed for the better and lives were saved owes much to former First Lady Betty Ford who passed away several days ago. She came to public attention as the spouse of President Ford but soon made her own name. She made a true difference. Betty Ford, RIP.