I was home for a few weeks. On Thursday, February 25, I left the house way before sunrise, drove to the airport (a rare luxury!) and flew north to New York. Even though we now live close, I don’t get there often. Hopped on the new Q70 express bus from LaGuardia airport, then onto the E train into Manhattan, and in no time was at my destination, the Hyatt at Grand Central Station, and an event called Aviation Day USA, sponsored by IATA, the International Air Transport Association, and the Wings Club, a New York aviation institution. I had a small role as the conference closer, delivering an end-of-day summary of the talks and panels. Saw a few old friends, met some new ones, and did a 15-minute wrap-up. Done.
Hopped on the subway toward lower Manhattan (Downtown in local parlance), riding a few stops to Union Square then west to 14th Street. From there a bracing walk in a cold wind to my digs, at the West Village apartment of friends Susan and Jeff Campbell. Jeff and I worked together at American Airlines going back to the mid-1990s, and I had not seen them for six years, when they lived in San Francisco. In 2014, Jeff took a big job as CFO at American Express. Susan and I yakked a bit, I worked my email, Jeff came home, and we headed a few blocks east to the Waverly Inn, a comfy, old-school restaurant opened by the editor of Vanity Fair. I’m not one to recognize celebrities, though I’m sure they were there. We were there for a fine meal and to get caught up after a long gap. It was a wonderful evening. They are quality people.
Was up before sunrise the next morning, admiring the panoramic view from their 14th floor condo, which was right on the Hudson River. Wowie, what a sight, from the Statue of Liberty on the south past Jersey City and Hoboken. Way cool. Jeff zipped off for work, yakked with Susan a bit more, and I hopped on the subway north to Columbus Circle and late breakfast with another former AA pal, Pete Pappas. Pete’s about 10 years older than me, with tons of airline experience, including a stint at Pan Am (he was there when their 747 was bombed out of the sky over Scotland, and has seen lots more). We had a great yak about the state of the industry, the old days, and more. Fun.
Flew home in early afternoon, after an hour waiting to take off at LGA. At the conference the day before, many speakers spoke about not enough aviation capacity in the New York region, and the wait underscored the point. Sigh.
Four days later, on the first day of March, I flew to Chicago, landing in heavy snow. Hopped on the familiar Pace #250 bus east to Evanston, dropped my bag at the hotel, and ambled a few blocks to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. My longtime host, Anne Coughlan, airline pal Gary Doernhoefer, and I collaborated on a newfangfled B-school case study. They’re usually paper, 8-25 pages. This one was multimedia, on a website, with video, slides, links, the works. The first case discussion would be that evening. We three yakked for awhile, and at 4:30 two others joined us, a way-smart fellow from United Airlines, Amos Khim, and Paul Wait, who leads a UK association of travel management companies. We had an early dinner and a yak, then joined the class. First half was Anne leading a class discussion, and the second half was a panel discussion and student questions. It was lively and fun.
Anne’s husband Chuck dropped Gary and I at the hotel, and we headed out for a couple of glasses of beer. At the bar, we met Felipe, a student in the class; an interesting Chinese-American barmaid (who in between beer runs told us some of her life story) who just finished a B.S. in mechanical engineering; and the voluble Dr. Parag Gupta, who just finished a doctorate in that same field. In between talking to strangers, Gary and I had a good yak about the business, family, and more. A nice evening.
But a short one. Woke up at five, which was six at home, my usual time to rise. Headed to the gym for some miles on a fitness bike, then back onto the #250 bus to Des Plaines, a suburb just north of O’Hare, for a speedy breakfast with Cousin Jim. He kindly dropped me back at the airport, and I flew home. Two zippy trips.