By J Mac Holladay, President, CEO and Founder
Last month, I had a particularly tough travel week. I had six flights over a seven day period. In the middle of that poorly planned timeframe, I reached a milestone. I have now flown over 2 million miles on Delta Airlines. I don’t remember that very first flight, but it was probably sometime in 1972 when I started in this work at the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce.
Two million miles – enough to fly around the world at the equator more than 83 times. I have been very fortunate to travel the world both professionally and for pleasure. As a former naval Aviator, I am always aware of the type of aircraft I am flying in. There have been many from tiny twin engine propeller driven aircraft to giant 747s and 777’s.
Oh, all the places I have been. They are from the smallest cities with air service like Watertown, South Dakota to capitols of the world like Johannesburg, South Africa, Tokyo, Paris, Quito, and Tel Aviv, Israel.
I have been to almost every state in our country over all these years. Some great places like Austin, I have visited over and over for many years. I often say that every town is different. Not only is that true, but their airports are as well. The worst among the large airports is Minneapolis/St. Paul with an awful layout, no complete internal train or people mover system, and a full mile from the high end Delta gate to the last commuter flight gate. Northwest Arkansas and Lake Charles, Louisiana are among the best small airports.
Decades ago, the airlines were required to serve communities of all sizes. They had to ask permission to abandon a route. Whether it was Macon, Georgia or Grand Island, Nebraska, they had regular air service. Once the FAA’s wings were clipped during the Reagan Administration, it has been a “free for all.” Communities have had to fight (and pay for) every seat with many now having no service at all. Who would have believed that we only have four primary airlines left in the United States?
The cancellations and delays over all these years are too numerous to mention with the thousands of flight I have taken. At the same time, Delta has always gotten me there safely. Most of the time I have gotten to wherever I was going on time or just a bit late.
Long ago, before the current SkyMiles program was around, I was a Delta Flying Colonel. We got special treatment and recognition on every flight. Back in the day, everyone dressed up to get on an airplane. Today, I still wear a sport coat on every flight. Now, I see people on every flight who appear to have come to airport after working in the yard or just getting out of bed.
One day, I will slow down and fly much less than I have these past 40 years or so, but not just yet. Maybe a few hundred thousand more miles to go……