A Difference A Year Can Make

I think that many of us started the year 2009 with absolutely no idea what the next twelve months would bring to our lives, our economy and our airlines. I think I’m not alone in saying the last twelve months have been trying, with a lot of unforeseen turbulence along the way. While we’re certainly not through the woods yet, I do think we can look at our airlines as a true reflection of what’s going on in our economy, our country and the global aviation business … and see some hope for smoother flying ahead.

After much convincing from insiders, I joined the management team at a large Chicago-based airline just a few short months ago. I remember thinking at the time that the sky was still falling and that my business experience would most likely be utilized in another round of bankruptcy proceedings. However, within my first week, I discovered a few amazing things. Not only did the financial world heal itself much faster than expected, allowing many airlines to access the capital needed to weather this unprecedented storm, but I also found people that truly enjoy their work and are willing to make difficult decisions to ensure the viability of air travel as a business. I also happened to join an airline that was transitioning from worst to first in on-time performance and, despite some hiccups, was earning strong customer accolades after years of dreaded customer service. This dramatic shift over such a short period is quite difficult to achieve in any business, much less a Fortune 500 company employing almost 50,000 people.

I wanted to share my experience, not to applaud my new employer or the managers that I am now pleased to call co-workers, but to share the hope that has recently energized my life. I believe that what I have witnessed in this company is the necessary and dramatic healing that needs to occur across the world in both our professional and personal lives (a phoenix rising from the ashes if you will). The fact that this example is coming from the ever-turbulent airline industry is quite remarkable considering the great many industries that are still muddling through change. I truly believe that much of this can be credited to the passion that my co-workers share for flight. While we may never solve the riddle that will allow airlines to be profitable, airfares to be reasonable, and airline employees to appreciate their compensation, aviation has always endured and re-created itself for the benefit of its constituents and I think the dramatic history of the air travel business can serve as an example for everyone.

I believe I am a witness to the opportunity that is presented by the extraordinary times that we are living in, and I hope that everyone takes the time to focus on what is important in your life. Whether it be in the skies, or firmly planted on the ground, if you do what you love, the rest will take care of itself.

Matthew Martin

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