I thought that Europe was the last 2014 trip, but there was one more, an overnight to Dallas/Fort Worth for a 2015 planning meeting with consulting client SmartKargo. Up at 4:30 on Friday the 19th, east to National Airport, and a flight to Texas. The conventional wisdom, dispensed almost daily in the media, is that flying in an airliner is a terrible experience. Dear readers, you won’t be surprised to read that I strongly disagree with this assessment – and not just because I’ve spent nearly my entire working life advancing the business of flight. So seat 14C became, for three hours, a superb place to work, to think, to reflect on a good year. To write a few paragraphs of the annual Britton holiday letter.
We landed a little after ten, and my SmartKargo colleague Jay Shelat picked me up. While waiting for him, I snapped a couple of “why I worked in the airline business” pictures: families reuniting. Those scenes brought a smile, as they always do. Jay and I stopped for a coffee and discussion, then headed to his house in nearby Southlake (when you’re working for a start-up, you’re happy to stay in someone’s home). Had a nice chat with Jay’s wife, Usha, who I had not seen since visiting them in Mumbai six years earlier. Their younger child, Priyanka, was 11 then, and at 17 she’s a young adult. At 1:30, SmartKargo CEO Milind Tavshikar arrived with wife Radhika and two pre-teen sons. Time for Indian lunch, yum, then we got on a couple of back-to-back phone conferences, followed by a few hours of thinking about 2015.
At 7:15, Jay, Milind, and I headed ten miles east to an Indian restaurant, where we met Mark and Dave, current and retired AA cargo execs, for a wonderful meal and informal discussion about the cargo business. Great to see old pals. Asleep by 10:30, up at 6, back to the airport and home for Christmas.
As the plane pushed back from gate C26, a nice “nonverbal T-t-S”: from my window seat, caught the eye of the wing walker, the AA person responsible for safe ramp movement. I waved and smiled. He seemed surprised by the interaction; he returned the smile and waved vigorously, then saluted me with his flashlight. I waved back: the salute, I thought, should go in the other direction, to another of all the people who make flying safe and reliable.