Magazine article Management Review

The Flight through Hell

Magazine article Management Review

The Flight through Hell

Article excerpt

In retrospect, my decision to catch the Red-Eye back to Boston was not exactly sensible. Tired after a Thursday business meeting in San Diego, I nonetheless checked out early from the allexpenses-paid, luxurious hotel room, and checked into the late night flight. Call it a whim, call it family obligations, call it stupid--here's an account of Flight 5040:

9:00 p.m. We board the plane. We" refers to all lo of us. I have 28 seats to myself.

9:15 p.m. The airplane rolls back and taxis toward the runway. Uh-oh. pilot comes on the intercom to announce that a last-minute check indicates a possible rudder problem. We return to the gate. I debate silently whether this is a good omen about the pilot, who seems to have his act together, or a bad omen about the plane, which seems to be falling apart.

9:30 p.m. We're ready to go again. That rudder thing certainly didn't take long to fix. They did fix it, didn't they?

10:10 p.m. Scheduled landing in L.A. Suddenly, hordes of passengers enter the plane, stowing their hand luggage right and left. I feel overwhelmed by their numbers. What's going on-has everyone decided to evacuate L.A.?

10:20 p.m. An overweight man squeezes into my row. With the cool confidence of a seasoned traveler, he removes his jacket and tie, unbuttons his shirt, rolls up his sleeves, sits down next to me and promptly closes his eyes. I admire his attitude.

10:30 p.m. Two more passengers take the seats immediately ahead. A man and a woman. Both young and reasonably attractive. They don't know each other, but start talking immediately. The man speaks much too loudly: "I've tried to leave L.A. three times in the past 10 years," he screams, "but I've never been able to fully escape." Escape? I try to get a good look at him in case it later turns out he's wanted by the police.

11:00 p.m. We're off. The pilot returns to the intercom to fill us in on the usual details: "We'll be flying at an altitude of 37,000 feet ..." Personally, I think pilots make up that stuff about altitudes. I mean, it's not like any of us are about to take out a ruler and check up on them. The pilot also says the flight will take five hours and 22 minutes. The 22 minutes is the part that disturbs me. …

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