Archive for the ‘Work & Job’ Category

Let the Games begin…

I’m not sure what it is, but the Olympic Games has always been an exciting television event for me.

The atmosphere, the buzz, the excitement.  It’s in the air and all around the host city.  In 2002, when Salt Lake City was the host city of the Winter Olympic Games, there was something magical about it all.  The entire city was transformed into pretty much the absolute largest sports convention in the world, and it was happening in my backyard!  For 16 days, the world comes together, despite it’s differences and gathers to compete in what is arguably the most prestigious sports award in the world.

Now the world stage is ready to light up the Vancouver skyline, and I can’t think of a more beautiful city to have host them.  I had the privilege to work on the very first flight of the day from San Francisco to the Olympic Games today and you could really feel the electricity in the cabin as the passengers were set to begin the next chapter in world winter sporting competition.  There were several athletes onboard who waited until the last minute to come to the Games as they finalized their last workouts, honing their laser-sharp talents for the entirety of mankind to behold.  What a feeling that must be, to be a competitor in these most competitive of venues.

There was an older couple on the flight this morning wearing their leather USA jackets.  This is their 10th Winter Olympics and those jackets we adorned with pins from all the various games they had attended.  There was a young Korean family traveling with us who were there to inspire their two young daughters–perhaps one day they would be on the ice, winning their OWN gold Olympic medal!

Even though I will be on the road for most of the days of the Games this year, I will be running my SlingBox into overdrive this month, trying to keep my DVR from filling up too rapidly from all the events I want to watch.  I remember having to work to Tokyo during the 2002 SLC Games and being forced to watch the coverage in Japan was an interesting experience.  I was amazed at what events drew the attention of the Japanese, as opposed to an American audience, and it made me realize that with all the hundreds of different events that are offered, it’s good to know that there really is something for everybody.

To to all the world’s athletes: we salute you and wish you all the best in your endeavors to conquer gold!  And to the spectators, both in Vancouver and around the world: Let’s watch and play together in a spirit of harmony and good sportsmanship.

I believe it truly defines our species as worth growing together as a single world!  Cheers!


Did you hear what I heard…?

As I was going through my TiVo programs, trying to get caught up on Idol, Vampire Diaries and Project Runway, I caught a little snippet of a news report from a few days ago. And it sent a chill down my spine…but…

This country has been on high alert for terrorists infiltrating this country since 9/11/01. That’s eight and a half years of keeping our “ear to the ground” (so to speak) and trying to remain vigilant. The saddest part of all of this is that the American people, as diverse and proud as we are about our country, have a really bad case of ADHD when it comes to this stuff. It’s very easy for them to become complacent and get themselves into the mode of “my government will protect me” and just move on with their lives.

The problem with that is that those whose sole mission it is to destroy our way of life, those who hate our culture and our government, our excesses and gluttony, our success and our dominance on the world stage, do NOT have a short memory and they have, over time, begun to use the very tools and technology that our own country has developed and cultivated against us.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and U.S. intelligence expert Leon Panetta

According to the experts, it’s just a matter of time — and that was the gist of the news report that I saw — before the terrorists are causing havoc and mass destruction within our borders again, and in light of these recent events, they are saying that just such an attack is imminent within the next THREE to SIX MONTHS!

The TOP intelligence agencies have all reported to Congress in the past several days that Al-Qaeda and it’s operatives have begun recruiting rogue Americans to carry out their desires for the destruction of the United States, our economy and our freedom — to bring us to our knees, because in their eyes, we deserve it and we — the Infidels — must be punished.

Now, I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little here (“The Sky is Falling!”), but as an airline safety professional, my “guard” has been up since the 9/11 attacks. I have no choice and I have no tolerance for those who wish to believe that it can’t happen again. It almost did on Christmas Day, for goodness sakes! And I have no idea why our Intelligence leaders would mislead the American public on so serious an issue as this.

Attempted terrorist aprehended on Christmas Day Delta flight

The fact of the matter (in my own mind) is that these terrorists are testing the system EVERY DAY. I’m not a suspicious person, but I also can’t afford not to keep alert whenever I step on that aircraft. I get that the average traveler isn’t thinking about that at all. But if the bad guys are successful in bringing down another passenger jet in the name of their god, I know that once again, the flying public’s guard will be heightened and aroused.

I might sleep a little better knowing that we can prevent it every time it’s attempted rather than live through another 9/11 morning. I’m not giving up on America and the freedom and way-of-life that I am privileged to have. But I still believe it is a gift to be cherished. If we don’t protect it, someone is always out there to take it from us.

Let’s hope it never comes to that…

What defines “safety”?

As you know by now, I work for a major airline, and I have done so for over 13 years.

While I have enjoyed my career there, I have felt an “undertow” of change in the industry that has become increasingly disturbing to me and many like myself who take pride in what we do and truly do have concern for the traveling public.

As an airline employee, I am a SAFETY PROFESSIONAL first and foremost.  And I take that duty very seriously.  I know that 99.9% of the people I work with also take that duty with an almost religious fervor that is tough to find in any other industry except maybe the medical profession.  We are responsible for millions of lives everyday–and all we are trying to do is to get the public from Point A to B in a safe, comfortable condition.

The recent focus on airline safety is not only disturbing to the general public.  We, as the airlines FRONT LINE employees are truly concerned at how the “suits” at the top of the ivory tower have whittled away our ability to always have that focus as our number one priority, and it seems that more and more “whistleblowers” are stepping forward to try to put a dent in the public’s perception that those who manage the airlines truly have the public’s safety in their sites.

While the major carriers can boast about on-time arrivals and safety being #1, a large dark shadow has increasingly loomed behind them that they tend to turn a blind eye to: the regional carriers that masquerade as being part of that major carrier, but in reality is run but a smaller, separate company that may not have the same integrity or motivation as the majors do.  And all because the regional carriers are making huge money at the expense of it’s own employees.

Don’t get me wrong.  The airlines WANT you to believe that airline employees make BIG money.  That myth has to end!  What job do YOU know of that requires you to work (on average) 12-16 hour days, with as little as 8 hours of rest in-between, and of all that time you are on duty, you are only paid for 30-40% of it?  Most pilots and flight attendants are only actually paid for the actual flight time (that is, from the moment the brakes are released at departure to the time they are set at arrival).  All that time before flights (including during boarding, where we are actually interacting with AND serving passengers), in-between flight segments waiting for aircraft, including time waiting for mechanical issues to be resolved, as well as the time we spend away from home, waiting for hotel vans to and from the airport while away from home — NONE of that is PAID time!

The airlines will argue that pilots and flight attendants really ARE paid during all that time (via a “per diem” stipend) but that usually amounts to $0.90-$2.50/hour when away from our home-base but that is strictly dependent on each workgroups’ Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and since most of these airlines have recently had the ability to have these CBA’s altered due to bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy threats, most airline employees have either had NO cost of living increases (COLA) in years, or have actually LOST income over time.  At my own airline, we are currently paid at 1991 pay levels…that’s almost 20 year-old wages without an increase (and soical security beneficiaries have gotten routine COLAs 15 times since 1991!).

PBS’s Frontline series is airing a special investigation program on this ever-increasing problem.  I have posted a preview of this program here for you to view.  Tell me what you think and please feel free to respond to my poll below…

Please go to: FRONTLINE

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Fog…

Commuting to work is usually a hassle, and sometimes it can be a real nightmare.

That was my day today. But in the midst of all the commotion, delays, flight cancellations and the public bouncing off the walls and each other, an odd, but humorously ironic thing happened that I’m not sure many people even noticed.

I don’t have to tell you that the people of Southern California have been hit hard these past few days with Amazonian-style rainfall, thus the reason for all the airline problems. Normally, I would just fly straight into San Francisco (where I am based) from Salt Lake City, but on occasion, I am faced with being a bit more creative in my routing, especially since my own airline has drastically reduced non-stop flight frequencies to SFO. So tonight, I was forced to use my SLC-LAX-SFO routing. And getting the connection to work was starting to get really hairy, since the aircraft I was taking to LA was delayed coming in from Chicago.

Needless to say, I got on the flight and upon arrival to LAX, we were forced to sit in the “penalty box” (as they call it – an area where the plane is forced to await further movement instructions from Air Traffic Control [ATC] due to an unavailable gate, or simply congestion). Our gate was occupied and there were no others available. And it was obvious why – everything there was soaked and it was still coming down.

At last, our gate opened up and we snaked our way through the throng of other planes waiting for the same thing. Lucky for me, my next flight was scheduled to depart out of a gate just adjacent to the one I had arrived at. I walked over, snatched my seat assignment from the CSR and then waited for boarding to commence (it’s also delayed because the crew arrived late, which has been the story of the day in LA). As is typical with the very quirky Los Angeles scene, the gate area is filled with businessmen and women, executives, and of course the very self-important “Hollywood-types” all buzzing around on their iPhones or Blackberries, speaking louder than is necessary, either working some deal or complaining about the airlines.

As I stand to the side, I am watching everyone in the area and no one is just listening. How can you really, with all the PA announcements and the iPods and the cellphones and the yakitty-yak-yak-yak of the people…but no one is just listening—except me.

Los Angeles International Airport, terminals 6, 7 and 8 are blessed to have music pumped into its airspace by the silky-smooth sounds of MUZAK. Any and every song imaginable can be heard from those speakers—I swear, I have even heard the Stones’ “Start Me Up” AND Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” in orchestrated splendor from this innocuous company! But tonight, someone over at the “Elevator Music Capital of the World” must have been trying to send a little smile across a listener’s face—and their mission was accomplished with me.

For amongst all the droning and whining and yapping all around me, the sultry, reticent melody of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” gently swept the airwaves of LAX. And though I looked around and noticed that no one else had taken notice, a tiny smirk appeared on my face and I looked out the window, grateful they hadn’t played Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains in Southern California!”


Hold the line…I’ll be right back!

I don’t think that I envy rich people. I really believe that if I had all the money in the world that I ever needed, I would soon find out how boring my life could be without work.

Sadly, work for me is a necessity. Living paycheck-to-paycheck has been my social standard for decades. Not that I’m complaining too loudly, but I have begun to get to the point in my life that I’d like to take a little time to enjoy life, and the things it could offer me if I actually had some free time.

I feel that I am neglecting myself, my family and my home, simply by being gone all the time. Working two jobs has begun to take it’s toll on me metally too, I think. The second income is nice to have, but it’s really a means to an end and the beginning of a new chapter in my life as well. Working at the airlines has been fun in the past, but it’s shine and lustre faded long ago and commuting to a city 800 miles away is anything but exciting for me.

Working at the grocery/home store has been challenging, fresh and fun, albeit not as lucrative, although the potential to make that increase is there for the taking if I choose to persue it. It’s a tough choice becuase I’ve been so comfortable in the airlines — but the airlines hold no real future for me and that is what’s most frustrating.

The bottom line is simply that my life has been on hold with regards to my financial advancement for many years while I have enjoyed years of traveling the world, meeting celebrities and dignitaries and having a quality of life that I had only dreamed of earlier.

This won’t be an easy transition — but nothing worth doing really is. At some point, the cards have to fall in my favor and I hope to make full use of every opportunity that comes my way. Otherwise, it’s “would you like milk and sugar with that” will be the epitat that will be engraved on my headstone!