It has been one year and five months exactly since I sent out an email advising subscribers of PlaneBusiness Banter that the issue they were about to read would be their last. After almost 30 years of dissecting the airline industry and the people who work in it in my own publications, (PlaneBuzz, The Daily Banter, PlaneBusiness Banter), in addition to The Motley Fool Airline Industry Research Center (which I created), and TheStreet.com, I was tired. Almost two years of post-Covid funny business that saw my immune system short-circuit on a regular, albeit unscheduled basis, also contributed to my decision to stop writing and take time to recalibrate.
Today I’d like to announce a few bits of news.
I signed up for a new account on the Substack platform last month. Thanks to an internal Substack recommendation from Brian Sumers, who writes The Airline Observer on Substack, some of you have already signed up for a publication that does not even exist yet. I was not aware when I signed up for an account, that Substack automatically assumes you are open and ready for business.
What an optimistic assumption that is.
Confession: I have not written a damn thing on Substack. I have not even set up the account settings.
But the account is there. And a good number of folks have already signed up. Some of you have even pledged to pay for whatever it is I decide to write. Sight unseen.
To those of you in that group I say this: I am incredibly thankful for your willingness to support my writing. For those of you who have hounded me about writing again, well, as you can now see, there is a possibility this may take place.
But what if I don’t write about airlines?
The name of this new writing adventure? The Gimlet-Eyed Observer.
The name does have an airline connection. For those of you hoping I’m going to return to my past life in some way, you can take solace in that bit of information.
“My gimlet-eyed observer” was a moniker given to me in a faxed response from then-Chairman, President and CEO Robert Crandall at American Airlines when I worked for him as a strategic comms consultant. Apparently I gave him the creeps when we would review how he came across in a President’s session with employees. Or after he was interviewed by the media. He would give me one of those looks like, “How can you know that?” But I knew he knew I was right. One thing I’ll say for Bob. His non-verbals oftentimes communicated a message more strongly than his actual words. This frequently was a problem. Especially when the two were not in synch.
Another confession. When I first received Bob’s fax with the aforementioned compliment, I had no idea what “gimlet-eyed” meant. I wasn’t even sure it was a compliment. All I knew was that there was a drink called a gimlet. And it had gin in it. (The advantage from having owned a bar and restaurant.) The term gimlet eye is derived from the gimlet, a small piercing or boring tool first used in the mid-1300s. The term “gimlet eye” came into use in the mid-1700s. Essentially it means something along the lines of having penetrating and piercing eyes, and seeming to notice everything.”
Cool. Especially that last part. Writers and analysts are supposed to notice everything.
Which brings me to another confession. When I signed up for the account on Substack, I was not sure I was going to write about airlines or not.
There is a lot to life that has nothing to do with airplanes. Yes, I know that comes as a shock to many of you.
But it’s true.
Many of my personal interests had, for too many years, taken a back seat to the pressing publishing demands of my previous airline-centric writing.
There is the topic of food, for instance. Great food. For those of you who don’t know, I was involved as an owner with three different restaurants/bars in New Orleans in a previous life. I suppose these could be considered my first “adult” entrepreneurial efforts. My first entrepreneurial effort was creating a newspaper in sixth grade and selling it to the rest of the students for 5 cents a copy.
Then there is gardening. Nothing better than planting heirloom tomato plants. Unless it is eating the heirloom tomatoes they produce. Texas weather was not very conducive to growing tomatoes. I would like to become a Master Gardener.
Another of my obsessions is real estate. Both commercial development and residential. Why is it, for example, that most individuals have no problem trusting a “salesperson” to oversee probably the largest and most consequential financial transaction of their lives — a house — after seeing an ad in a glossy neighborhood advertorial publication? Or because they received a referral from the agent’s mother? Or because someone at work, whose house is a totally different type of property, tells them “this person was great to work with.” Does this mean that this agent will know how to handle your property? Does it even mean that this transaction benefited that seller as much as it could have?
The residential real estate model is broken. Needs to move to a consulting model in which the financial and investment interests of only one party (either the seller or the buyer, but not both) are represented by someone who has more of a big picture view — not merely a transactional one.
Then there is the topic of investing. The best part about having worked on Wall Street for an investment firm oh so many years ago was that I learned how the Street works. IYKYK. I manage my own money. I enjoy it. But I am an exception. I worry about the fact so many folks don’t seem to have a clue as to what to do with their money. Both men and women. Or their real estate. (See above.)
Then again, let’s talk about age. Last month would have been a fine time for me to write about how daunting it is to fly on airplanes and transverse airports when one has a very angry sciatic nerve and perhaps a herniated disk. It was the closest I have come to flying as a “disabled” person. It was not pleasant. And with a rapidly aging population (many of whom have big bucks to spend on travel), both airlines and airports are woefully ill-prepared to handle this influx of physically compromised individuals.
Or maybe we could talk airline CEO’s. Or maybe NEAs. (I told you from the get-go back in 2021 the American-JetBlue NEA would never fly.) I did. Really. Don’t make me go find those old PlaneBusiness Banter issues. Or maybe we could talk about American’s attempt this spring to strong-arm corporate travel managers and agencies into changing the way most of them do business. To benefit American. How’s all that working out? Yes, perhaps we could talk about this. Just a hunch.
Or hell, maybe we could talk about how much fun it was to read that Lufthansa has agreed to purchase 41% of ITA Airways, aka Alitalia? I know Brett Snyder, aka Cranky Flier, is so happy he can hardly contain himself with this news.
Hmmm. I’m moving back into airlines again aren’t I?
One thing you won’t hear me talk much about anymore is the DFW Metromess. I no longer live in Texas.
I’m very happy about this. So are my allergies.
I am not, however, usually too happy when I have to fly anywhere now, as I live in a geographical location that those of us in the industry know as a “connecting flight hell.” Very few nonstop flights. Unless I’m going to Dallas. Or Atlanta.
Damn. I’m talking airlines again.
Anyway, it’s good to be back. Whatever that means. I plan to venture over to the new environs in Substack this week and be constructive. Maybe I’ll actually have the place cleaned up and ready for company by next week. That’s the plan anyway. I will come back and give you a status update.
Finally, there seems to be some confusion about how to best get in touch with me. After the Substack publication is up and running, that will be the best way. But for now you can use the old PlaneBusiness address, firstname.lastname@example.org. (Not linked, in an effort to curb rampant spam.)
Take care everyone. Talk to you soon. About something. Over in the new digs.