“No, that’s not it at all. Costs are going up and profit margins are shrinking, so over the last couple years all the major airlines have been operating under the principle of ‘just in time.’ Planes arrive just in time to take off for another city, crews get there just in time to take off. Computerization has made that level of precision theoretically possible. It ought to be a ballet of jets, gas, and pilots.”

“That doesn’t explain why the flights are always late.”

“Yes it does. Let me paint a picture for you: there’s bad traffic in Los Angeles. The flight crew is late getting in, so their plane is late to Indianapolis. The same plane is going to Detroit with a different crew, and the old crew is flying to Atlanta. Now you have three delayed flights due to one fender-bender on the beltline. A complicated system with a lot of moving parts and a lot of humans will break down, and those breakdowns create ripples throughout the system. So, inevitably, ‘just in time’ becomes ‘never in time.'”

“How do you know that?”

“Used to be a pilot.”

“Why’d you quit?”

“You mean aside from the stress that drove me to the hospital three times in my last six months? Aside from the one frequent flier that was so angry about the delay that made him miss his daughter’s wedding that he stabbed me with a fountain pen? Aside form the fact that my dream of seeing the world wound up being crashing in a Hilton on six different continents?”


“Aside from all that? I just needed a change of pace.”