So…I had to take a business trip to Seattle, and when I looked at the options, a 3-letter/number combination caught my eye – 76W. It turns out that at the moment, the 8amish flight from Atlanta to Seattle is serviced by an internationally configured 767. In other words, lots of seats up front that lie flat. Here’s an image of the cabin courtesy of Delta Air Lines. I was excited to try out the BusinessElite® seats on the 767. 767+BusinessElite+seat+1+hi I booked this flight without hesitation, and as luck would have it….my Sunday morning upgrade cleared at the window as a Platinum Medallion. I was a little too excited given that it’s just a seat, and while the flight was on an internationally configured airplane, the service would be standard domestic service featuring what I have now named “the always reliable Delta First Class omelet.” Things got off to a rocky start because our flight attendants were late in arriving…actually, two of them were late in arriving. Funny thing is, I got a heads up from TripIt Pro before Delta said anything. IMG_1377 No idea what the issue was, but soon enough, they arrived and shortly thereafter, boarding began. With the compressed boarding time no pre-departure beverage service was offered. Funny thing – with some AAirlines, it’s a notable event when you actually get a PDB, with Delta, it’s notable when you don’t. There was water, we boarded in a hurry, and soon enough we were pushing back an on our way to Seattle. I videoed the takeoff roll on a dreary day in Atlanta. http://youtu.be/YHmMC6DnNV8 Inflight service began shortly after takeoff, and it was here that I noticed one flight attendant seemed to be working both aisles until well into the service when she was joined by another from the back. This made service a bit slow in my opinion, at least until the other flight attendant appeared. Here’s what the always reliable Delta First Class Omelet looks like. IMG_1385 And what kind of guy would I be without trying out the seat. Here’s a shot of the legroom. IMG_1378 And the IFE. IMG_1375 It’s a little easier for me to use this image courtesy of Delta Air Lines to show you the seat in lie flat mode. 2009-55DSC_2963 hi You’ll notice some blue plastic molding or something similar encroaching on the legroom in this shot. I learned from my buddy, The Weekly Flyer, that row 1 does not have this which adds a bit to legroom, so I chose a seat in row 1. Another note, the odd numbered rows feature the console (tray table, power outlets, etc. separating you from the aisle, and they felt a good bit more private. In the end, all that matters is could I sleep in this seat, and the answer is yes. It was a bit tight when lying on my back, but I sleep on my side, so I found the seat perfectly suitable for sleeping. However, there wasn’t much need for sleep on this westbound domestic flight. Since this was an international aircraft, there is no wi-fi yet. However, something just seemed to make the flight go a lot faster this time as opposed to my last trip to Seattle in coach. :) For good measure, heres a scene from the approach into Seattle. IMG_1394 In the end, it was a great flight, with reasonably friendly service, good inflight entertainment, and a comfortable seat. Turns out, I really didn’t miss the wi-fi that much, but I won’t make a habit of flying non wi-fi aircraft if I can help it. -MJ, July 28, 2014

To say that I viewed the thought of a transcontinental redeye in coach with a sense of trepidation would be a mild understatement. The flight out wasn’t so bad, but it was daylight, I had “beginning of the trip motivation,” a great hotel room waiting on the other end, and…well…it wasn’t a redeye. One might ask why I would do such a thing? It’s a fair question. First, I had an expiring “buy one get one” coupon courtesy of my Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex. Second, we needed to get to Seattle, and the coupon helped cover the costs. Finally, the timing just worked.

The details – Delta Air Lines B737-900, row 10, a bulkhead on the ABC side of the aircraft. This was not my first 737-900 ride with Delta, but it was my first in the coach cabin. If you nab bulkhead seats on the left side, there is no partition blocking your feet. You have access to the area underneath the seat in front of you. This would prove handy.

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As my backpack was fairly empty, I had some room to work my feet into the space and stretch out. After takeoff, I carefully reclined about 1 inch….nowhere near max recline, and not without looking to see that the person behind me was already out cold. I shut my eyes, and the next thing I knew, we were just over an hour outside of Atlanta. I remember taking off, and that’s about it.

Keys to sleeping on an airplane in coach – picking the right seat that offers a little room to stretch out and being a little tired. I’m sure an hour or so in the Sky Club for a cocktail beforehand didn’t hurt either. In the end, while I found the bulkhead seat a little tight due to the tray table being in the armrest, this might be the one I pick on my next 737 transcon with Delta…. if I can’t manage an upgrade. I hear the rest of the airplane is fairly snug in coach.

-MJ, July 7, 2014

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a tiny bit, but a little gem from the Delta Taking Off blog caught my eye this afternoon. Delta started serving Atlanta’s home-brew beer, Sweetwater 420 on flights from Atlanta to NYC a while back. That was great news, but since I don’t fly to New York that often, I was out of luck. No more. In addition to great Luvo wraps on certain routes, you’ll now be able to quench your thirst with awesome Sweetwater beer on more flights.

According to the post, “Delta is also expanding our beverage selection of Atlanta’s finest craft beer, SweetWater 420, service on additional routes, from Atlanta to Washington Dulles International Airport, Reagan National Airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport, Tampa International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and Miami International Airport.” 

Great news for beer lovers. Cheers! Can I get a little Sweetwater IPA now?

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-MJ, July 1, 2014

#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 1)

#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 2)

#InsideDelta – Two Questions I Wish I’d Asked Delta CEO Richard Anderson (Part 3)

In my final piece on the #InsideDelta event I attended last week, I’m going to share some details of our chat with Delta’s CEO Richard Anderson. Our meeting with Richard was the last thing prior to dinner. We were slightly behind schedule, but he spent quite a bit of time with us. Frankly, he seemed to enjoy talking with us. He greeted each of us individually, then sat down to chat. We went through our day’s events, and I immediately caught on to something – he knew the names of the individuals we’d met with from the tower manager to the engine shop supervisor. What I write below is taken from my notes of the conversation. I may paraphrase a bit based on my handwriting, but these are the highlights as I recall them.

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On Seattle

  • Delta’s desire in Seattle is to build a hub.
  • Seattle has a bigger local traffic base than Minneapolis, and Minneapolis has great local traffic.

On SkyMiles 2015

  • Miles are no longer an effective measure.
  • Bank cards pioneered what they are doing.
  • SkyMiles is incredibly valuable to Delta and American Express.

Delta Culture

  • Delta’s culture is remarkable. “I hope you can feel it when you walk around here.”
  • Really about making this a place where people want to be.
  • He was personally involved in plans for the Delta Flight Museum.

On Operations in Atlanta

  • 80 percent improvement in baggage numbers since 2007.
  • Replaced bag system.

On Time Management

  • I’m pretty efficient. There are only 12 emails in my inbox right now.
  • Stay on top of homework.
  • Never touch paper twice. (MJ notes – I may have heard angels sing after that remark. Wish more managers lived that way)
  • Sometimes you have to say no to calendar events.

Advice for Our Youngest Group Member Looking for an Airline Career

  • Complete your studies with a focus on finance.
  • Take every internship opportunity you can get.

He was already late for an appointment, and probably stayed longer than intended, but I’m not exaggerating when I say he seemed to enjoy talking with us. That said, if I had the time back, I would have found a way to ask two more questions.

  1. What long-term structural business problem was Delta attempting to solve with a switch to a revenue-based SkyMiles program?
  2. If you had to pick the single most important aspect from legacy NWA and legacy DAL to preserve in a merged airline, what would they be?

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get an answer after the fact. :) What question would you have asked?

Parting Thoughts on #InsideDelta

I think Delta was pretty brave to host a bunch of aviation-enthusiasts with smart phones and Twitter accounts. On the other hand, even some of their staunchest critics would agree that Delta is running the best big U.S. airline from an operational and product perspective. This event showcased what it takes to deliver that kind of product to its customers. You know what? It takes a heck of a lot of work, and a lot of moving parts have to work together to make it happen. My thanks to Delta for letting me tag along.

-MJ, June 28, 2014

Travel Company Disclosures Updated June 28, 2014

 

#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 1)

#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 2)

#InsideDelta – Two Questions I Wish I’d Asked Delta CEO Richard Anderson (Part 3)

The F Concourse Sky Club and Lunch with Jeff Robertson

After making our way into Delta’s flagship Sky Club, we proceeded upstairs where lunch was served. On offer were various fruits, veggies, and sandwich wraps by Luvo which are served on some Delta flights in Economy Comfort. Of course, the obligatory airplane photo was taken.

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After a few minutes off our feet, Jeff Robertson, VP - Product Development, Sky Clubs, and Marketing Communications. You’ll remember Jeff as the VP in charge of SkyMiles. He talked for several minutes, answering questions mainly related to his new job, and specifically about Sky Clubs. Some random thoughts he mentioned either in his talk or in response to questions. Note that I am paraphrasing a bit.

  • There is potential for seeing Sky Decks at other clubs.
  • Maintenance of clubs is not where it needs to be. I got a kick out of him talking about checking for dust.
  • He knows the Atlanta B10 club is not ideal. Longer term plan is for a mega club on the B concourse, and closure of B10. (PTL!)
  • Delta’s target in Seattle is to build a hub, not Alaska Air. (This wasn’t the only time I would hear this during the visit)

SkyMiles was mentioned in passing, and I do not recall any questions about it for Jeff. It was an interesting talk. He did specifically mention American’s transcon product as competitive, but did not allude to any changes on the Delta side. I’m actually a little surprised that the recent BusinessElite upgrade changes in the JFK transcon markets weren’t mentioned. If I’d known about them at the time, I would’ve asked about this. After this, it was on to check out an airplane.

The A330 BusinessElite Seat

I’ve flown BusinessElite in the A330, but it was in the old configuration. Delta has installed a very nice reverse herringbone configuration in its A330 fleet. Having flown the 777 BusinessElite seat, I think I can say I like the A330 seat a bit better. I’m sure the angle improved my perception, and I could be imagining things, but the A330 seats seems a tiny bit wider. Trust me, I wouldn’t mind flying either across an ocean!

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I entered full on #AvGeek mode at this point. I wasn’t the only one, but kid in candy store would be an apt description. The only thing that could have made me giddier would have been actually flying to Rome where this airplane was headed later in the day. I checked out the seats features, including video, and the all important power outlets.

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Maybe I was almost as giddy as if I were actually flying somewhere because the experience even included a little pre-departure refreshment.

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And of course, the ultimate test. Does MJ on Travel fit in the seat. The answer – an unqualified yes! The Delta A330 BusinessElite seat is now on my Must Fly list.

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I’m sensing a real need to fly to Rome soon. :) Needing to keep us on schedule, the Delta folks ushered us off the airplane. There was a swag cart outside, including Tumi BusinessElite amenity kits. I collected one of those, and gave it away last week. One of my other airline lives was in Tech Ops Quality AAssurance, so the next stop on the tour would have special meaning to me.

Technical Operations

Airline operations fascinate me. I don’t know what it is, but I love the whole process of delivering air transportation, including aircraft maintenance. Perhaps that’s why I was looking so forward to the Tech Ops tour.

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Our tour started with a walk through the landing gear and engine shops. A few factoids I found interesting:

  • Something like 47 football fields under roof.
  • Delta installs GoGo wi-fi on brand new aircraft after delivery from Boeing. Process takes up to 7 days, but that includes some other new delivery functions too.

In fact, here’s a picture of what happens to a brand new 737-900 when she arrives at Delta Tech Ops after a delivery flight.

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That’s looking up where the overheads should be. Honestly, seeing what happened to a new airplane to make internet access happen for us made me want to cry. :) Here’s an exterior picture.

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What kind of #AvGeek would I be without a few more airplane pictures walking around the hanger?

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And an engine in the test cell for good measure.

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Delta’s Social Media Lab

Our next stop was Delta’s social media lab, and a chat with Allison Ausband, VP-Reservations Sales and Customer Care. It was great meeting the folks that make @DeltaAssist work. I’ve had great success working with the @DeltaAssist team to fix minor little issues, or same day confirm onto different flights. It was nice putting faces with the initials. :) Allison’s talk was interesting, and we learned about Delta’s outreach efforts via social media, new phone systems, and even the handhelds being rolled out to flight attendants.

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Finally, it was time to wrap up our day with Delta’s CEO, Richard Anderson. That will get a post all its own, so let’s talk about dinner at Restaurant Eugene.

Dinner at Restaurant Eugene and Chef Linton Hopkins

I’ve heard great things about Restaurant Eugene, but I don’t think that I had put together the name, the chef, and BusinessElite meals in select markets from Atlanta until now. There was a wine tasting presented by one of Delta’s great flight attendants, and then a talk from Chef Linton himself.

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To say that Chef Linton is passionate about food would be a big understatement. I believe he could have talked for hours about his experiment bring “farm to tray table” food from local Georgia farms to Delta’s BusinessElite customers. You know what? I could have listened to him talk about it for hours too! But we had to eat.

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If you’re dining at Restaurant Eugene anytime soon, do yourself a favor and order the corn soup. Fellow BA blogger, Wandering Aramean posted a story about Chef Linton’s farm to tray table efforts.

In-Flight Service

The next morning began bright and early with a tour of Delta’s flight attendant training center. We were greeted by three instructors who took us through the center, demonstrating opening and closing aircraft doors and giving us the run down on life as a flight attendant for Delta. Yours truly, who has opened a few thousand aircraft doors in his time, got into the spirit of things. Like a boss!

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Without question, my favorite part of touring the training center was participating in an aircraft evacuation drill complete with collapsed landing gear, loss of electrical, a bit of fire, and some smoke too. I videoed the festivities just for good measure.

Nah, that wasn’t cool as hell. :) After this, we made our way over to the Delta Flight Museum for grand opening festivities. I posted a few photos and details here.

Coming soon – Part 3, our time with Delta CEO Richard Anderson, 2 questions I wish I’d asked, and some parting thoughts on #InsideDelta.

-MJ, June 27, 2014

Travel Company Disclosures Updated June 28, 2014

As my handful of teaser posts would suggest, I was invited to attend the #InsideDelta event at Delta Air Lines headquarters last week. I was pretty stoked to receive the email invitation.

“Delta Air Lines is excited to invite you as our guest to the Inside Delta experience for digital influencers and the grand opening of the newly-renovated Delta Flight Museum. During the two-day event at our Atlanta world headquarters, we’ll take you behind the scenes to meet the people at the heart of Delta’s industry-leading global operation and award-winning service while giving you a taste of what it takes to connect more than 165 million annual customers on nearly 6,000 daily flights around the world.”

As the name of the event suggests, this was an in depth look at what it takes to keep one of the world’s largest airlines flying. As my fellow BA blogger, Wandering Aramean, remarked while we were touring baggage operations at the airport, (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) it’s amazing all the stuff that has to happen just get me a drink on an airplane. Amazing indeed. There’s quite a bit of information, so I’m breaking this up into 3 posts.

#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 1)

#InsideDelta – A Look Behind the Scenes at Delta Air Lines (Part 2)

#InsideDelta – Two Questions I Wish I’d Asked Delta CEO Richard Anderson (Part 3)

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The event actually started Sunday evening with a receptions at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel adjacent to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Living in Atlanta, I Ubered over to the hotel to join my fellow event attendees. It was great chatting with some of the folks from Delta Corporate Communications, and meeting the people I’d be spending the next 2 days with. Unquestionably, the best thing about the Renaissance was the great view of the runway and Delta’s famous Technical Operations hangar with the lighted “Fly Delta Jets” sign.

The Operations Customer Center (OCC)

Delta’s OCC is the nerve center of the airline. Flight dispatch and crew scheduling are all run from here, and important departments from across the airline are also represented. We arrived just in time for the morning operational conference call.

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The discussion centered around what you might expect, reliability, maintenance problems, crew availability, and any issues that happened overnight. Once upon a time I routinely sat in on a similar morning call at another airline, so the issues and challenges discussed seemed familiar, and brought a bit of a smile to my face. The marketing department gets all the glory and the entertainment budget, but here is where things happen for any airline. Of course, marketing puts butts in seats, so I love marketing types too. More on that later.

After listening in on the conference call we moved out to the OCC floor where the action happens. Here’s where thousands of flights, crews, and connections are managed with a worldwide view. Worldwide or not, each flight is special and managed individually. I was impressed that the number of not only Diamond Medallion members on a flight, but Platinums too was immediately available. Million milers and unaccompanied minors make the cut too.

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Sorry for the blur! With such a busy day, I snapped that photo on the move to our next tour.

Airport Operations

After getting gate passes and working our way through the TSA security checkpoint, we made our way to the A Concourse operations tower. We received a briefing from the operations manager which included interesting information on the number of flights that move through the airport each day. There were a ton of neat factoids from achieving a 3-minute reduction in taxi times thanks to the “end around” taxiways on the airports north side to the optimal arrival rate being 126 landings per hour. Three minutes may not sound like a lot, but multiply that by over 900 flights a day over the course of a year, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money. After the briefing, we made our way up to the ramp tower for some spectacular views.

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After the tower, we made our way to Concourse B for a look at Delta’s baggage operations. I’ve seen a large ramp operation behind the scenes before, but I was still impressed with the intricacy of moving bags over dozens of miles of conveyor belts out of sight of most passengers. Frankly, I’ve always been a bit amazed that more bags aren’t lost.

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That’s the belt your bags take as they make their way from the ticket counter to Concourse B. :) We got a brief presentation on how baggage operations work in Atlanta, the airlines internal goals, etc. But the best thing was just watching the bags move.

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Is that your bag?! I think it made the flight! After working our way through the baggage operation, we made our way back to our transportation, and drove over to Atlanta’s international terminal, Concourse F. Waiting for us? The beautiful Queen of the Skies – the Boeing 747-400, waiting to take passengers to Tokyo.

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I’m really going to miss these birds when they eventually leave the Delta fleet. One can wish for the B747-8i, but I’m not hopeful for seeing this airplane at Delta. We ascended the stairs right into the gate area where passengers were waiting to fly to Tokyo. If you could see the look on their faces when a large group of people in safety vests appeared out of nowhere. I’m sure thoughts like “what the heck is wrong with our airplane?!” went through their minds. The morning was incredibly busy, and the afternoon would be too. Thankfully, there was time for lunch.

Coming up – lunch with Jeff Robertson, A330 product, and technical operations.

-MJ, June 27, 2014

Travel Company Disclosures Updated June 28, 2014

Earlier this week I was invited to attend a social media event at Delta Air Lines. #InsideDelta was a look inside what it takes to keep one of the world’s largest airlines flying. It was more focused on passenger experience, and was not a meeting of the minds about the SkyMiles program, though that certainly came up during the visit.

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The schedule was intense and included behind the scenes tours of the Operations and Customer Center (OCC), the airport coordination tower above Concourse A at Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL), and baggage operations. After a Sky Club luncheon discussion with Jeff Robertson, VP Product Development, Sky Clubs & Marketing Communications, we got a look at the BusinessElite cabin of an A330, then toured Technical Operations (aircraft and engine maintenance), and Delta’s social media lab. The day concluded with a roundtable discussion with CEO Richard Anderson followed by a dinner presented by Chef Linton Hopkins, who is working with Delta on select BusinessElite meal services.

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Day 2 began with a tour of the In-Flight Service Training Center where we got a taste of the 7 weeks of intense training Delta’s new hire flight attendants receive. Impressive for sure, but hands down, my favorite part of the visit with In-Flight was the simulated emergency evacuation, complete with landing gear collapse.

#InsideDelta concluded with an invitation to the grand opening celebration of the Delta Flight Museum. For an aviation buff like me, it was like being a kid in a candy store.

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#InsideDelta was a very dynamic learning experience, and this post and my teaser posts this week are only scratching the surface. I’ll be working through the weekend to prepare a complete post, perhaps a few posts, on the entire event, including more specifics, and a few interesting tidbits from the executives we met with too. Some surprisingly frank discussions to share. In the meantime, check out the Twitterfeed throughout if you’re curious.

-MJ, June 20, 2014

One of the highlights of the #InsideDelta event I participated in this week was attending the grand opening of the Delta Flight Museum. Delta Air Lines turned 85 yesterday, and the grand opening was held to coincide with that. There was a film about the history of Delta, speeches from the mayor, governor, and the CEO, and of course, airplanes. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared June 17, 2014 as Delta Air Lines Day in Georgia, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed bestowed the city’s highest honor, the Phoenix Award on Delta CEO Richard Anderson. It was a festive day all around. If you like airplanes at all, it was downright fun. It will take me a few days to put together a post on the entire #InsideDelta event, but in the meantime, I thought a few airplane photos from my day at the museum might be in order. Enjoy!

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Ever wonder what it is really like during an aircraft evacuation? Earlier today, I got to experience a bit of the training Delta Air Lines flight attendants receive thanks to being a part of #InsideDelta. I have to admit, even though I was well aware this was a simulated event, it was real enough to get the adrenaline flowing. Apologies for the lighting in the video as I went down the slide, but the darkness added to the realism. My advice – follow flight attendant instructions, and when it’s time to go down the slide, don’t think, jump!

-MJ, June 17, 2014

Just completed a day learning about Delta Air Lines. Today, I was invited to a Delta Air Lines event known as #InsideDelta. Day 1 was spent learning about Delta’s operations, touring the Operations Customer Center, airport operations at Atlanta in the ramp tower and in the baggage room, a look at the A330 Business Elite cabin, and Delta’s Technical Operations Center. Our day was capped off with a meeting with Delta CEO Richard Anderson.

As an ex-airline guy, it’s always fun to get back to my aviation roots, even if I didn’t work for Delta. I really enjoyed getting a behind the scenes look at the airline I fly most. Suffice it to say, Monday was one of the most informative days I’ve experienced. I plan to post a full blog on the experience later this week, but I wanted to add a few words now, and share a few pictures. More very soon.

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-MJ, June 17, 2014

 

 

 

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