Coronacation 2020

My older son Brenden says I need to blog more, so…

As you probably know, COVID-19 has decimated the airline industry, among all the other havoc it’s wrought. Compared to last year, the TSA is screening about 95 percent fewer passengers each day, sometimes under 100,000 people nationwide. Southwest is hemorrhaging cash. Instead of our normal 4000-ish daily flights, we’re operating around 1000 and have parked a couple hundred aircraft. Even with the drastically reduced scheduled, our flights are still mostly empty. Currently the dispatch department is paying everyone their full salary but only staffing about half the desks to aid in social distancing.

Needless to say, this isn’t sustainable.

Fortunately, the changes at work have limited the spread. We’ve only had one confirmed case in our office, and it happened in March. However, it’s still strange and sad to see our headquarters look like a ghost town as the non-operational employees work from home and only half the operational ones are there. I dispatched an Oakland to Honolulu flight last week that had two passengers. That works out to two flight attendants for each passenger.

To preserve cash during this jaw-dropping downturn in travel, Southwest is offering its employees the chance to stay home for a month at a time with full benefits and a fraction of their salary. They’re calling it Emergency Time Off (ETO). After doing the math and discussing it with Jenny, I volunteered for May. As of April 26, I am on coronacationâ„¢ for six weeks. I return to work June 8.

Yes, this is going to sting, but we’ll be okay. I’m grateful to still have a job. Over 26 million people have lost theirs over the last few weeks.

Southwest in Crisis Mode

I started at Southwest in June 2001, fresh out of college as a rookie technical writer in the IT department. A few months later, another event shocked the industry and evaporated demand for air travel: September 11. All commercial flights were grounded for two days. Nobody knew whether people would want to fly again after that. Millions of people canceled their flight reservations. At any other airline, I would have been laid off immediately. But Southwest doesn’t believe in layoffs. Our leaders let me and every other employee keep our jobs, even though they knew the risk. By taking care of their people, they won my loyalty for life. And over time, people starting flying again.

This year, Southwest is facing the biggest challenge in our history. My coronacation is a little way for me to give back to the company that saved my career and has been so good to my family over the last 18+ years.

Life Before and After COVID-19

So…now what?

My pre-rona life was a lot more hectic. I worked a lot of overtime trying to chip away at the mortgage, save up for travel, pay down one car or save up for the next one, fund house projects, and save for the boys’ college. When I wasn’t at work, I drove the boys to and from the pool, watched their meets, stayed in shape by running and cycling, helped out around the house, and tried to get enough sleep. It was a nice life but very busy. When I had a day off that didn’t involve a meet or a family event, I felt a little guilty and disappointed that I wasn’t working overtime to get ahead. I’m supposed to be productive, dangit!

Enter COVID-19.

Only half of the scheduled dispatchers actually come in to work so we can have an empty desk in between each of us. Open shifts are covered not by overtime, but by the on-call people, so overtime is all but gone until this passes. I only worked 8 shifts in April. I was on-call for several other shifts but only got activated once.

The virus has impacted each person in their own way. It forced me to slow down, to breathe, to relax, to reevaluate my life and how I spend my time and what my priorities are.

Despite the stay-at-home order and various nagging questions, this has actually been nice. Our kids have a weekday routine – breakfast, workout, school, lunch, clean something, free time / family time, dinner. The boys no longer have swim/dive practice in the evening, so we can relax and hang out instead of driving back and forth to the pool three times each evening. I run or ride three times a week but don’t have to squeeze them after work or on a rare day off. I sleep more and am less irritable as a result. Jenny and I go on walks and talk and catch Pokemon. We taught the boys how to play spades and got smoked by them in Super Smash Bros. I introduced them to a couple of my favorite movies. We might do a Lord of the Rings movie marathon like Jenny and I did before the boys came along. I cleaned out and reorganized the garage and linen closet, knocked out the huge pile of filing I’d put off for far too long, and diagnosed and replaced a bad circuit breaker that was turning off our fridge. I’ve FaceTimed with my mom and my 93-year-old grandfather. I finished a fascinating book called A Woman of No Importance, which is about an American woman with one leg that served as an amazingly effective spy in France during World War II. My next goal is to finally finish reading the novel version of Les Miserables (too many words, Victor Hugo!!!), the basis of my favorite musical. I also hope to dust off my guitar and see if my fingers still work.

The other day I ate lunch alone on the porch – no electronics reminding me that society is collapsing, no one to talk to, just me and a gorgeous spring day. The sun was out. A healthy breeze rustled the trees, shimmering in various shades of green and full of life. A pair of beautiful red-shouldered hawks swooped in and perched on our fence. That brief half-hour of quiet reminded me that life is indeed going on, even with the deadly virus, and that I get to choose what to focus on.

This feels a bit like retirement, except that my kids are still young and my body still works. So although it won’t be much fun financially, I am grateful for the opportunity to help Southwest and to spend so much time relaxing and enjoying life with my family as we try to stay healthy and sane.

On the bright side, it’s easier to save money when you aren’t supposed to do anything. We had booked and largely paid for a summer camp for the boys and a trip to San Francisco for us in early June. COVID-19 has canceled both of them, which (sadly) freed up some funds. Their swim and dive clubs are on hiatus, which saves cash. We’re deferring expenses, canceling extra mortgage payments, eating out much less, reducing our contributions to the boys’ college funds, and burning some of our savings that we can use to get through May.

I’m also well aware that we’re in an extraordinarily privileged position just to have the option to help my employer survive by taking a month off.

The boys are taking it pretty well. Jonathan, our social butterfly, really misses people. Jenny and I are trying to accommodate him by spending time with him each day – cards, chess, video games, bike rides, trampoline time, art projects. Brenden, our introvert, doesn’t feel as lonely but laments that he hasn’t been inside another building besides our house in over a month. Both miss being in the pool. In a pleasant surprise, they’re spending more time playing with each other. Sometimes it’s Minecraft or Super Smash Bros. Sometimes they just hang out on the trampoline, talking and batting a ball around. They’re having little trouble with online learning except for occasionally overlooking an assignment, which Jenny and I try to catch.

Jenny is a little stir-crazy. She’s reading a lot (thank you, Kindle Unlimited!), working on some art, and trying to keep the boys on track. She hits the grocery store every 7-10 days, trying to make each visit count. She and her family send each other short video updates via the Marco Polo app to stay in touch. Since her hospital has banned in-person classes, she and her partner are converting most of her classes to online format via Zoom. Her first one was the full-day childbirth class earlier this month, and it actually worked fairly well.

So in a nutshell, we’re doing okay.

Questions That Make Me Squirm

Although this time isn’t all bad by any means, some dark and uncomfortable questions bubble up throughout the day. Questions like:

  • The big one that few want to consider: what if we never find a way to become immune? What if there is no protective immunity after one gets the disease? Despite our hopes and assumptions, so far there’s little evidence of it in people who have recovered. What if herd immunity isn’t possible? What if we never develop a vaccine? Some viruses still don’t have a vaccine despite years of effort, including norovirus, RSV, MERS, the Epstein-Barr virus, and HIV. Flu has one, but since the virus mutates so much, we have to keep getting flu vaccines annually, and each year’s formula never works 100 percent effectively.
  • How and when will the economy recover from this? How many jobs will never return, particularly in small business, brick-and-mortar retail, restaurants, bars, clubs, live sporting events, concerts, and other sectors that bring together large groups of people?
  • Will people ever want to fly again at the same level they did before? What would make them feel safe enough and confident enough to get back on an airplane? Will Southwest need to shrink permanently? If so, how many of my friends, including people I’ve trained, will lose their jobs? That will be the last resort, but Southwest can’t go on like this forever. For many of us, dispatching for Southwest is our dream job, and I want every one of our new folks to stay if possible.
  • Will it ever be safe to hug my grandparents again?

Reasons to Hope

Despite these worries about things I can’t control, all is not lost. People have come together to fight this disease like I’ve never seen. Healthy people are choosing to stay home, keeping their distance, and wearing masks to protect others. Essential employees put their lives at risk every day to treat the sick, keep the lights on, fly vital supplies and workers to the people that need them, and keep food in everyone’s bellies. We’re learning about who we are, what’s important, and where we are vulnerable. And a lot of really smart people are working hard to end this crisis with the least possible damage. We are a strong species. We learn, adapt, and persevere. And we’re not giving up.

Stay safe, everyone. And wash your hands.

Southwest Goes Way, Way Offshore

Yesterday Southwest Airlines reached an exciting operational milestone: our first scheduled flight more than 162 nautical miles offshore, far into the Atlantic Ocean. For now, we are only flying so far offshore between Baltimore and San Juan, Puerto Rico, but other routes will probably follow.

This new type of route takes us into what’s called Class II airspace. Class II includes any area that’s too far away to use ground-based navigational beacons, such as areas far from a coastline or so remote that no navigational beacons are installed. Flying there requires special training, FAA approval, and onboard equipment for long-range navigation and communications. In many cases, such as our BWI-SJU flights, Class II also overlaps with areas that are so far offshore that the FAA requires life rafts onboard. These areas involve Extended Overwater operations.

With No Overwater Equipment – 50nm Offshore

Until Southwest added life jackets to all our planes in 2006, we were required to stay within 50nm of shore. Under the old rule, our BWI-SJU route would have needed to hug the coast, a very inefficient route as shown here:

With Life Jackets – Up to 162nm Offshore

Adding life jackets allowed us to fly up to 162nm offshore, which let us take shortcuts across the Gulf of Mexico between Tampa and New Orleans or along the East Coast between South Florida and North Carolina. On our BWI-SJU flight, we could use a route that went a bit more directly between the two airports. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the first route, saving 2900 lbs (about $1300 worth) of fuel and 29 minutes enroute.

Class II / Extended Overwater – Up to 1 Hour from Adequate Diversion Airport

As of yesterday, we can now enter Class II airspace and go beyond the 162nm perimeter with a properly-equipped aircraft. For now, only some of our new 737-800s are equipped for these flights. With them, we can fly up to one hour (428nm) from an adequate diversion airport. This is a significant step up for us in terms of both capability and time/fuel savings. The Class II route saves an additional 2200 lbs (about $1000 worth) of fuel and 20 minutes versus the route using only life jackets. Compared to the hugging-the-coast route, it saves a whopping 5100 lbs (about $2300 worth) and 49 minutes enroute.

Here are all three routes side by side with the new Class II route in white. Nice, eh?

Some of our new 737-800s came equipped to fly more than one hour away from an adequate diversion airport, known as ETOPS. Currently, Southwest does not have ETOPS certification, which takes time to obtain and requires additional maintenance and training. ETOPS would allow service to places like Hawaii. I do not know if or when we will pursue ETOPS, but those aircraft will be ready in case we do.

Happenings from the Week

It’s been a pretty good week. Here are some items of note.

First Taste of Caribbean Dispatching

In the lower right, you can see the first first I’ve ever gotten to flight follow to a destination outside the continental US, SWA 742 from Orlando to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Honestly, someone else had planned it and followed it most of the way. I took over maybe 10 minutes before it landed. But that still counts, right? I got to plan my first two SJU flights Monday morning. Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, flights to and from there aren’t much different from an operational perspective. We just try not to divert to Cuba.

Uncle Charlie

The saddest part of the week came toward the end. After a long and debilitating battle with Alzheimer’s, my great uncle Charlie passed away on Thursday morning. Nearly all his family and many friends got to gather on Saturday in Wichita Falls to say goodbye and celebrate his life. Although we are certainly sad that he’s no longer with us and will miss him, it’s a relief when long-term suffering ends for someone you love. He was a good man. Several family members shared moving stories about him that gave me a clearer picture of his high character, sense of responsibility, and devotion to his family. Rest in peace, Uncle Charlie.

NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out

This article from USA Today has more details, but this week Washington Wizards center Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in any of the big four American sports. Other pro athletes have been out for many years, such as tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King and sprinter Carl Lewis. Perhaps competing in individual sports rather than team sports made coming out easier. Until now, gay NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL players have always stayed in the closet. But it was only a matter of time, as statistically about 3 percent of people are gay or lesbian. Overall, the public response to Collins’ admission from other players has been very supportive and positive, which is very encouraging. Bravo to Collins for having the courage to take a huge risk and go first by being honest about who he is. Others will follow. You can count on it.

South Padre, Baby!

Soon we plan to take the boys to South Padre Island for a couple of days. In addition to lots of beach time, we also want to visit a rescue facility called Sea Turtle, Inc., take the boys sailing on a replica pirate ship complete with a pirate show, and enjoy some tasty seafood.

Helping West

I decided not to attend the West memorial at Baylor to counter-protest Westboro. My firefighter friend Jeremy did, though, and said it was very moving and well-done. I made a donation to the Salvation Army’s West fund, which is probably more useful than picking a fight with ignorant hatemongers, anyway. My sister and her husband went down and volunteered in West on Sunday, bringing an amazing number of cookies to the displaced residents and helping with the food efforts in person. They were nice enough to bring me some kolaches from Czech Stop, which helps West and me both.

Blog Soup April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day! Lots going on this month. Here are some of the random thoughts running through my head:

  1. WE HAVE SARAH MCLACHLAN TICKETS FOR TONIGHT. I think I can safely say she is my favorite musician. (See, Alex? I can do it!) Ten of her albums sit in my iPhone. Jenny and I saw her once several years ago, and it was truly a spiritual experience, like we were connecting to something Other and Beautiful and The Way Things Could Be. That time we were way up high at AAC. Tonight, I think we’re near the front at the Meyerson. Breathe, Box, breathe.
  2. Like many of you, I was horrified by the fertilizer plant explosion in West, which was so powerful that two coworkers heard it from their houses in Cedar Hill. I bought kolaches from The Czech Stop several times, and I passed through the little town dozens of times driving to and from Baylor. Jenny bought her wedding dress from a little shop there. On top of our personal experiences there, most of the dead were firefighters who were fighting the initial fire when the plant exploded, and one of my best friends growing up now works as a firefighter in Axle. If he’d been on duty in the area when the fire broke out, he probably wouldn’t be here today.
  3. Apparently our friends at Westboro Baptist Church plan to protest some of the firefighters’ funerals and a big memorial service at Baylor this week. When they tried that for a funeral of a former Aggie who was killed in combat, about 600 Aggies showed up and built a human wall to keep them away. A group near West is organizing something similar, and I might go join them for the Baylor memorial. They want it to be a silent, arm-in-arm stand to protect the families rather than a shouting match. That seems like a better approach to me.
  4. Congratulations to Jenny for getting accepted to UTA Nursing School! She has been taking prereqs for six semesters now, and she finally got the official word (as if there were ever any doubt!) that she can start full-time nursing school this fall. She worked really hard to get ready to apply and did extremely well in her classes, and I have no doubt she will rock that school. The program lasts four semesters, so she expects to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in May 2015. You better believe there will be a major graduation party.
  5. Due to sequestration, the FAA has imposed mandatory furlough days on the air traffic controllers, reducing the workforce on any given day by about 10 percent. As a result, SWA took some minor delays during the day on Sunday (a lighter than normal traffic day), but multi-hour delays yesterday evening into Los Angeles. One of my flights landed four hours late. For those who’ve been screaming for spending cuts and smaller government, was this what they had in mind? Probably not, but this is what’s happening, and it sucks.
  6. Something else that sucks is our yard! It turns out that ignoring your soil for four years, refusing to water or fertilize it, and hoping your grass won’t grow tends to produce poor soil that is more hospitable to weeds than to grass. So…I finally did something about it and bought some milorganite. It’s an organic fertilizer that adds nitrogen and lowers the soil’s pH a bit to make things less cozy for the weeds that form much of our yard. I’m trying hard to avoid poisons like Roundup and typical fertilizers that cause environmental problems (see West, TX for one example). This seems like a more effective and eco-friendly approach. We’ll how this organic stuff does.
  7. We’re also thinking about replacing the monkey grass out front with some different plants that like full shade. Texas Smartscape has a nice database of native plants that do well here without copious amounts of water.

Highlights from This Year’s Cockpit Rides

Every year, the feds require me to spend some time in the cockpit to observe our pilots in their natural habitat. This time helps me better understand their activities, needs, and decisions at every stage of the flight from the pre-flight checklists to parking at the destination. I particularly enjoyed this year’s observation flights on Sunday. I started from Love Field and flew to Kansas City, Chicago, Branson, and then back to Love. Here are some of the best parts:

  • Landing in Snowy Kansas City (MCI) – I was originally planning to go to Alabama and Florida hoping to see some thunderstorms near the airport, but the day before I saw that a winter storm was moving into the Midwest, so I switched up my route. Kansas City had the worst weather of my airports by far: visibility 3/4 mile, low clouds, strong north winds, light snow, and slippery runways. The pilots called the braking action fair on the runway, in the middle of our braking action scale, and poor on the taxiway, meaning it was slightly better than an ice skating rink. To ensure we didn’t slide off the taxiway, the captain taxied to the gate at less than 10 mph. Taxiing two miles at that speed felt like a lifetime, but it was a good call by the captain. Caution helps keep us off the news.
  • Departing Snowy Kansas City – Before we could take off from Kansas City, I got to experience deicing from the cockpit for the first time. Even though the snow was blowing in sideways and seemed to be fairly dry, we still needed to spray a couple of different types of fluid onto the wings and tail to ensure that they didn’t have any snow adhering to them. Frozen precipitation on the wings and control surfaces reduces their effectiveness. Unfortunately, from the cockpit jumpseat (just in front of the cockpit door), I couldn’t see the actual deicing process, which would have been interesting. However, it was helpful to observe the deicing trucks moving to and from the aircraft and hear the communication between the captain and the “Iceman” who does the spraying.
  • Crew Diversity – As you’ve probably noticed, the pilot profession in America is overwhelmingly white and male. I would estimate that perhaps 90 percent or more of our pilots fit that description. I have no problem with white males, but since half our general population is female and a significant portion is nonwhite, I’d like to see a little more diversity in the pilot profession. On this trip, I found some. The captain on the first two legs to KC and Chicago was female and in her 50s or early 60s with stark white hair. She probably started flying for us when I was in elementary school or maybe early junior high. She was extremely detail-oriented, very professional, and very comfortable in her role. The first officer was Latino. He performed an outstanding landing in KC on a slippery runway with visibility right at his minimums. On the way back to Dallas via Branson, the first officer was black. A former military pilot, he successfully landed in Branson in very strong and gusty winds that behaved oddly due to the numerous hills around. The only white male pilot was the captain on the return leg, who also did a fine job. I really enjoyed seeing such a diverse group of pilots on a single trip.
  • Branson – We just started service to Branson, MO, earlier this month after converting the station from AirTran to SWA. It’s a tiny station for us with only four daily departures right now to Dallas Love, Chicago Midway, and Houston Hobby. The ground handlers seemed to be contractors rather than SWA employees since the station is so small. I was glad to have the opportunity to visit our newest station on this trip. Branson is a different animal. A tiny, privately owned airport built in 2009, it has three “gates” but no jetways. Instead, passengers board and deplane via mobile stands that have a switchback ramp to walk up and down. Normally, that would be fine, but when we arrived, the temperature was 32F with winds gusting over 30mph, so stepping off the plane was a RUDE awakening. The terminal itself is quaint, similar to a small Bass Pro Shop from the outside. They actually put a small Bass Pro inside the terminal. Apparently there’s a tasty BBQ restaurant inside, but I didn’t get more than a peek. The airport gets such little traffic that its taxiway doesn’t extend the full length of the runway, so planes actually taxi on the runway itself for much of the distance. We taxied east on the runway, pulled a 180, and departed to the west. Branson was a very interesting experience.

Here is a picture of the Branson terminal.

Since I’ll be doing international flights, I’ll need to do an international jumpseat ride every other year. So probably next March, I’ll be heading out to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mrs. Box said she wants to accompany me on that one.

I’ve Seen the Effects of the Wind

It’s invisible. The only way to know it’s there is by seeing, feeling, or hearing its effects. But the wind makes a big difference in the performance of a flight, particularly a longer flight.

It’s easy to think of wind in terms of the surface winds we feel outside. A light breeze might clock 5-10 mph, a good wind for flying kites might reach 15-20 mph, and anything 30 mph or more might blow your chihuahua away. Hidden from most people’s awareness are the winds far above the surface when jets fly – 20,000 feet up to maybe 45,000 feet. The winds aloft, as we call them, are often much stronger, ranging from 40-50 mph up to 120 mph or even higher. While they don’t stop an airline from flying, they can greatly affect flight times and fuel burn.

How the Wind Affects a Passenger

When you book a flight, you see a time for departure and arrival. It’s tempting, and somewhat reasonable, to view those times as a promise. However, it’s rare for a flight to depart and arrive exactly as scheduled. Obviously, some flights depart late for any number of reasons, but even an on-time departure might arrive at its destination early, right on schedule, or late. The winds aloft, especially on a flight over two hours long, are one of the main reasons.

When an airline publishes a schedule months in advance, the planners have no idea what the weather or winds will be doing on the day your flight departs. So they make an educated guess based on the typical times for similar flights in the past and the general pattern of the winds along that route. The average winds aloft are stronger during the winter and weaker during the summer. Also, the winds in the continental U.S. generally blow from west to east. So the schedule planners might plan your Vegas to Baltimore flight to take 4 hours 25 minutes in January when the tailwind is likely to be stronger versus 4 hours 40 minutes in July when the winds are weaker.

But remember – it’s only an estimate. What actually matters are the winds aloft on the day you fly, and they can vary quite a bit even from one day to the next.

Here’s one example. This map shows yesterday’s weather and jetstream, the areas where the winds aloft are strongest. The dark blue lines with arrows indicate the jetstream. The winds are fairly consistent and strong from west to east until they reach the eastern states, when the turn southeast.

Thanks to the strong jetstream over the western and central US, one Vegas-Baltimore flight scheduled for 4h 25m only took 4h 12m, or 13 minutes less. Nice!

Here’s another map from today. Down south the winds are about the same, but the jetstream bends strangely from north to south over the Rockies.

What does this mean to our Vegas-Baltimore flight? Instead of getting a boost from a strong tailwind most of the way like yesterday, it gets a bit more of a crosswind over the middle of the country, meaning the plane can cover a bit less ground in a given amount of time with the same amount of effort. If you average out all the winds for the whole flight, today’s has about 22 mph less tailwind than yesterday’s. That makes today’s flight reach Baltimore about 8 minutes later than yesterday’s…still early by a few minutes, but not as early.

How I Can Help

When you drive somewhere, say from Dallas to Fort Worth, you have some options regarding your route. Maybe you like I-30, maybe you like I-20, or perhaps you prefer side streets. For an airline, routing works the same way to some degree, but not entirely. For most of our airports and flights, we have some flexibility regarding the path we take. However, to help air traffic controllers manage all the flights in the air, they generally prefer that we use certain routes that work well for them. We store those routes in our flight planning software and use them by default unless there’s some good reason not to.

Here’s where I come in.

On long flights such as Vegas-Baltimore or Orlando-Denver, I often run multiple versions of the flight plan. The first uses the preferred route. The second lets our flight planning software magically determine the ideal route using the current winds. Often, the preferred route is already ideal. But when the winds vary significantly in direction or speed from one part of the country to another, sometimes the ideal route (“best winds route,” in our jargon) is hundreds of miles north or south of the preferred route. If the custom route saves time and fuel over the preferred route, I can file it with air traffic control. As long as it doesn’t cause problems for their traffic flow, they usually let my flight use the route.

Here’s one example for an Atlanta-Vegas flight. The preferred route is white, the best winds route orange. Note how the best winds route stays north of the pref route to stay away from the jetstream. Sometimes the best winds route is longer than the pref route, but because its winds are better, the enroute time and fuel burn are lower.

Best winds routes take extra work and are not required. But unless I’m really busy and don’t have time, I give them a try on my long-haul desks. Why bother? They can save a lot of money.

Suppose I tweak the route on my Vegas-Baltimore flight to catch more of a tailwind. It might save 500 pounds of fuel and 6 minutes of flying time. That might not sound like much for a flight that’s burning 18,500 pounds of fuel. However, with jet fuel in Vegas costing $3.40/gallon, those 500 pounds translate into $253.73 in savings. In terms of net profit for the company, it’s like I convinced one more passenger to buy an advanced-purchase ticket. And it took maybe 3-4 minutes of extra work. No brainer, right? These make me seriously happy.

Sometimes I only save a couple hundred pounds, maybe $100 worth of fuel. In certain circumstances, I’ve saved $600-700 or more on a single flight. If I can plan several best winds routes in a shift, I can pay my salary for few days just in fuel savings. Those are some of the times I know I’m really making a difference at work.

The next time you fly somewhere, I suggest thinking about three things:

  1. Compare your actual departure and arrival times to the scheduled departure and arrival times. How much do they differ? Any ideas why?
  2. Even though it’s really hard to see their effect, look outside and think about how strong the winds are.
  3. Raise your glass to the flight dispatcher sitting in a room back at airline headquarters who planned your route and fuel load and is monitoring your flight.

Disclaimer: All thoughts expressed here are solely my own and do not necessarily represent those of Southwest Airlines, its Employees, or its Board of Directors.