Friday, November 26, 2010

My Airline Christmas List

There has been much ado about the full-body scanners found at many major airports and the invasion of our personal body space for the sake of safety and security. I can see the hoopla that this can create, but a little x-ray peep of my hidings and/or a pat down is tolerable for me when there are so many other things airport related I'd like to see changed. I'm not a road warrior, but I travel frequently, and just returned from a business trip to Orlando last week and made some observations. None of which were me peeping into another person's body scan. For the record, none of the airports I traveled through had these contraptions installed. If I could have five wishes from the Airport Santa, here is what I'd love to see...

1. No charge for checked bags on any airline - Southwest is the only airline that still allows for free checked bags. Other airlines allow preferred club members to let their bags fly free, but for the common traveler, checking a bag is an additional cost. What doesn't make sense is this just forces some people to haul their larger than life luggage on the plane to stuff into the overhead compartment. After they push and tug and realize it won't fit, the nice flight attendant has to tag it anyway and a poor, overworked airline employee has to stow it with the elite bags that paid to ride in cargo. A lot of hassle that could be saved by letting the first bag fly free.

2. Security line for families - When you enter the TSA security lines, you have choices..."Expert Traveler"..."Casual Traveler"..."Wheelchair Assistance." There should be a line for "Traveling Families." I feel so bad for families with small children who have to lug car seats, strollers and other toddler paraphernalia through security. On top of that, the older little ones have to take off their shoes, put their backpacks on the conveyor belt for scanning...all quite daunting for a little one. This special line could provide assistance to families helping the process roll smoother. Especially if a Mom or Dad is traveling solo. I've seen parents traveling with two or three children by themselves and think "Man, how'd you get through security and get to the gate in one piece?" When I was that small, I could stroll all the way to the gate to see my Dad off on a business trip with no security to hinder me. Times have changed, but we can make it easier for families.

3. Load planes in zones that relate to what type of seat you have, not by your row - All airlines with assigned seating load by zones. Typically the farther back in the plane you are, the quicker you get to load the plane (unless you are first class, of course). This seems to make sense, but practically, it falls a bit short. When loading by zones, the first zone should be all window seats, then zone two all middle seats and the final zone all aisle seats. I always request a window seat, and I inevitably have to make someone get up and move so I can be seated. This could be avoided with my suggestion on zone seating. Plus make loading a plane much quicker. You'd think the whiz bang folks that direct air traffic could pass that logistical tidbit along.

4. A nice little cheat sheet when my boarding pass is scanned - When I board the plane and scan my boarding pass, I'd love for a little paper to pop out that will tell me what gate this plane will de-board at the arriving airport and, if I have a connecting flight, the departing gate for that flight. When you have a tight connection, it would be great to know if I've got 3 concourses to race through when we land or whether my gate is two gates down. I realize those things change from time to time, but with the technology we have in place, it should be really simple to connect all my information from that boarding pass and airports I'm traveling through. I do one search on Google for a product and Google Ads pop up for that product everywhere I go online thereafter. Maybe Google can help airports work out that tracking ability.

5. A mini bottle of water for everybody - I realize in first class, you can get a bottle of water before the plane is even loaded. But, in the interest of good health and keeping your flight participants hydrated, giving everyone a small bottle of water as they enter the plane would be fabulous. Of course, the normal beverage service would still apply (we travelers are thirsty!) and I'd still want my three gulps of diet coke and my six peanuts.

Happy traveling during the holidays! And be sure to tell the Airport Santa what you want for Christmas this year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Decision Points

As a Today Show fan (and Matt Lauer fan), I was fascinated by the latest interview he conducted with former President George W Bush. Unfortunately I missed the hour-long special on NBC, but thanks to Denny Burk, I was able to catch it all online via video. I'm completely intrigued by this book and hope to eventually read it, so hearing snippets of the pages he shared was captivating. Whatever your political persuasion, I ask you to put that aside as you read my blogpost. I want you to read this with an open mind as the reflections I gleaned from listening to his parley with Matt reach beyond the bounds of parties. As I listened to him, I realized that we all would serve as Commander in Chief based on our life experiences and foundational upbringing. It permeates all we do. And it made George W Bush the man, and President, he is and was. How was he influenced?

His life experiences shaped his decision-making - Many people may wonder why he was pro-life. The gripping story of his Mother's miscarriage when he was a teenager and seeing the remains of that child has forever formed his belief that life begins long before earthly air is inhaled. So much so that he even has some disagreements with his wife, Laura's, stand on this same issue. Now all those times I saw him defend the right for an unborn child to live, I'll remember that he saw firsthand the reality of life in the womb. Your feeling on things change when they hit very close to home.

His relationship with his father was something to cherish - As he speaks of his Dad, George, Sr, he gets very emotional. I was enthralled by his explaining all the letters his Dad would write him, encouraging him along the way. They move him so much even today that he can't read them without tearing up. The touching video of his Dad reaching out to grasp his hand after he spoke at the 9/11 Service at the National Cathedral speaks more than a 1000 words. A lot has been said about them being competitive enemies, but he confirms that isn't the truth. It is apparent George, Sr, impacted his son in ways we all benefited from as a country. Such a great reminder of the importance of parental influence in the home. It shapes us now and forever.

His faith in God and love for Laura is captivating - Anyone who knows his history knows George struggled with alcoholism. Through discovering a faith in God and turning his life around, he was able to shake that addiction. I loved that Matt challenged him regarding that vice. He asked him if during all the times of struggle as President - 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, two wars - if he ever faltered. He emphatically said no. This is the evidence of a truly-changed man. We all fail in areas when we are pressured, yet his faith in God and the deliverance he experienced was enough to keep him on the right road. And, he understands what it means to fail. We all need a President that has that kind of humility. When he met Laura, he wasn't the man he is today and was chained by this addiction. Laura is a quiet spirit, but in watching them together and hearing the candidness of his life, I see a strong woman behind that man. I can envision that she lovingly kept him in line when needed, yet supported him 100%. Even in the issues where they disagree, you see in her a love and respect for him that is refreshing. Long before he laid his hand on the Bible to be sworn into office as President the first time, God knew the road ahead for him. Clearly, her love and support in the rough times of their life was exactly what he would need for the road ahead.

One day, he will be remembered as one of our greatest Presidents - The first President I was privileged to vote for was Ronald Reagan. He will always hold a special place in my heart. He was ridiculed for being the Hollywood President and persecuted for decisions he made, but as we look back on his terms in office, we see what an amazing President he was for his time. As a country, we aren't quite historical enough yet to appreciate that in George. But, one day we will. From 9/11 attacks to commanding the greatest military in the world, he faced challenges that not all Presidents must face. And, one day the history books will record the greatness of his Presidency. And we will remember the common man from West Texas who led our country through some of its darkest days.

There is something refreshing about a man who held the most powerful job in the world expressing himself with such candor and frankness. George acknowledges he wasn't the perfect President, nor is he the flawless man. But he loved this country and served it to the best of his abilities. Thanks, George, for the sacrifice of your life to serve our country well.