Travel is “Fatal to Prejudice”

National Botanical Garden

National Botanical Garden

I’m taking some time off around the holidays, staying close to home, though I have spent a lot of time thinking about travel.  Perhaps that is because I spent much of the last three months on the road, or perhaps because we have had a lot of house guests, or maybe because of all the tourists I see in DC these days (DC is an underrated Christmas town, by the way, the attached photo was taken at the Botanical Gardens near the Capitol).

Maybe it is because most of the Christmas movies I’ve watched these past several days include some component of travel (did you know that “Love Actually,” a fun movie with a Christmas theme,  begins and ends at the airport?!?!  Like so many other great experiences!).

Anyway, it seems like people have a yearning to travel.  They like the freedom of it, the people they see and meet, the experiences they have.  Mark Twain once said that travel is “fatal to prejudice.” I think (and hope) he has a point!

This led me to think of the places I visited this past year.  If you are reading this it means you probably either like to travel or make your living in the industry, or both, so I’d guess your list looks much like mine.  I may miss a place or two, but in 2011 I traveled to:

For vacation:  Iceland.

To visit family and friends:  Champaign, IL; Toms River, NJ; Sayreville, NJ (my hometown and the hometown of Jon Bon Jovi and Dule Hill); Cincinnati, OH; Tucson, AZ; Cape Cod, MA; Columbus, OH

For work (you will see I need better work-life balance!):

Overseas destinations:  Lisbon, Portugal; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Marrakech, Morocco; London, UK and Abu Dhabi, UAE

In Canada: Montreal and Ottawa (note to self: go to Canada more often in 2012, use that NEXUS card!)

In the US:  Atlanta, Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Diego, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Phoenix, Tucson, Dallas, San Antonio, Kansas City, St. Louis, Louisville, Lexington (KY), Boston, Denver, New York, Chicago, Portland (OR), Memphis, Nashville, Savannah.  This doesn’t count places I drove through or airports I may have used to get somewhere else.

There were other places I went to along the way that don’t fit neatly into those categories, for example I went to Marion, OH driving home from a family visit and to Abilene, KS and North Bend, OH while in those areas for work, to visit presidential grave sites (Harding, Eisenhower and William Henry Harrison respectively).  I went to Charlottesville, VA to go to a football game and visit the University of Virginia.  While traveling to the cities listed above in the various categories I did visit ballparks and dead presidents.  An especially moving experience was to visit the Civil Rights Museum at the old Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Martin Luther King was killed.  And, yes, on that same trip we did go to Graceland!

No one loves a quiet day at home more than me, I’m having one right now!  I always have more than enough to read and it is almost always either baseball or football season so there is almost always something to watch.  But nothing beats getting out and seeing new places.  And I find that when visiting old ones, it is like one of those movies where you get more and more of the scenes each time you watch them.

I’ve already booked trips in the first three months of the year to New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Hong Kong and Geneva (Switzerland), with much more to come, so 2012 will be at least as busy.  While business travel is not terribly glamorous, contrary to popular wisdom, I am lucky to experience so many places.  And even luckier to work in an industry that makes so much travel, and prejudice eradication, possible.

Happy New Year!

Passion and Great Leaders

Passion. It’s something I think a lot about. No, not the passion you find in novels with pictures of Fabio on the cover. But the passion you need to accomplish great things. Because ability without passion limits what you can accomplish, but ability married to passion leads to great things.

This was on vivid display this past Friday at the annual Wright Memorial Dinner in Washington, D.C. This yearly event honors someone who has married passion and ability to do great things and shape the aviation industry. This year, the awardee was Gen. Thomas Stafford, an astronaut, pilot

Former Astronaut Thomas Stafford

and leader whose imprint is embedded on so much aviation history. Four former winners of the Wright Trophy were there, Gene Cernan, Norm Mineta, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. Those folks personify what I’m talking about. And I was so pleased to see some of the younger folks at ACI-NA who were in attendance who were so thrilled to be in the presence of these great leaders.

Recently, I was speaking to a friend of mine who is seen as a leader in the global aviation and tourism industry. I asked how she came by her passion for what she does. She talked about her dad who was a pilot in rural Canada, flying with him when she was young, learning to fly herself and embarking on a consequential career in our industry. So hers was almost inherited, almost romantic in nature.

I came by mine later, when I worked in state government and saw how aviation can lead to economic growth and opportunity. To me, aviation is the single most important development in economic history and it is exciting to play a part in it.

So my passion came later, is maybe somewhat more “practical” than “romantic” in nature, but it is there nonetheless. I strongly believe passion is an indispensable value, and passion is included among ACI-NA’s Core Values.

So yes, I think about passion all the time. And yes, occasionally, it is the “other” kind. Hey, you need some of that too!

Beyond the Borders – Common Sense Wins Out?

Just recently, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an important initiative to bring more coherence to the policies governing how we manage the border between our countries.  This is an initiative that is long overdue and most welcome.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama

It is well-known that the U.S.-Canada border is the longest peaceful border in the world.  When you especially consider the borders China, for example, has with both Russia and India and the tensions caused in those places, you can see how fortunate we are here to have a neighbor such as Canada.  I must admit, I did not know a lot about Canada before I took this job and had only traveled there a couple of times.  I now go to Canada several times a year, have a NEXUS card, and have visited seven of the 10 provinces (still have Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland to go).  It has become a favored travel destination.

With all the security problems and challenges the U.S. has to face, it has always amazed me how little common sense is used in border policy with Canada.  For example, if you fly from Montréal to Denver, you and your bags are deemed safe and secure; indeed, you pass through U.S. customs and immigration in Montreal.  So, for all intents and purposes, for the Montréal to Denver flight, over 2,000 miles of the United States, you are considered a domestic passenger and you and your bags are considered secure.  But once you land in Denver, while you can walk to your connection to Grand Junction, your bags must be re-screened.  It makes no sense, it is a waste of resources and diverts attention from something that might actually be a threat.  I am told that nearly 10 percent of the bags screened in Minneapolis are re-screened bags from Canada.  It is nuts.

But through the recently announced initiative this bag re-screening requirement, something ACI-NA has led the fight to get rid of for some time now, will be gradually eliminated.  This is great news for travelers, and even better news for the security of our aviation system.  There are a number of other key initiatives in the Obama-Harper agreement that, I hope, will one day lead to our two countries being considered a single perimeter.

Next, I would like to see this requirement lifted for flights from the European Union, and perhaps from other key allies.  These were important recommendations of a federal commission I served on in the last administration, appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.  Called the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Commission, we made these and other common sense recommendations to enhance national security while ensuring that legitimate travel was well-facilitated.  During that commission, my seat mate was J.W. Marriott, Jr., CEO of the Marriott hotel chain.  Marriott put a great deal of energy and passion into the commission’s work, though I am sure he had been on lots of commissions before.  We had a number of good conversations about these and other issues; he’s a good man.  Marriott announced his retirement yesterday, which was big news in the Washington area as Marriott is a locally based company, and it was big news in the travel business, for obvious reasons.  I certainly wish him well and thank him for his courtesies to me.

My Mother-In-Law and Alec Baldwin?

My blog’s headline today sounds like the title of a weird short story, or an even weirder dream, but allow me to tell you how my mother-in-law made me think of the stunt Alec Baldwin pulled on that recent flight.

Because of the wonders of aviation, my wife, sons and I are all out here in Champaign, Ill., to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Those are the kinds of events that don’t happen very often and due to our various schedules, we had a narrow window within which to travel out here together. Our flight was uneventful, as was the drive in from Indianapolis, and we are lucky enough to be here. And you see in the picture, she is happy we are here.

My mother-in-law at 90.

Why does this make me think of Alec Baldwin?

As you know, he forced a delay in his flight recently because he wouldn’t stop playing a game on his cell phone.

How many of the people on that flight were going to something like a 90th birthday party and maybe missed it because they missed a connection because of what he did?  What about people who were flying later in the day on that same plane which, by the time he was done, may have spent the rest of the day trying to catch up. Did anyone miss a once in a lifetime moment because of his rude, arrogant, selfish behavior?

And, his comments about the flight attendants reminding him of Catholic school teachers from the 50’s?  What’s that all about?  What an awful thing to say on so many levels.  Maybe one of those flight attendants will save your life someday.

And let’s face it, Mr B., if you weren’t rich and famous no one would turn a head to look at a middle-aged man with anger management issues and without, let’s say, matinee idol looks.

Now I’m not a big fan of all the rules about turning off electronics. I’ve forgotten once or twice and found when I landed my Blackberry was still on. But it is a rule and a very easy to follow rule. And 10 minutes or so later you can continue your game.

I often notice the rare mis-behaving passenger acts as if either he or she thinks they are the only person on the flight, or they act as if they are somehow standing up for the rest of us. Both dynamics seem to have been the case here. What a dope. I just hope no on missed an important, once in a lifetime memory.