The Power of Loyalty
Thank you so much for the article on fireworks (“Keeping the Flame Alive,” July 1). The article brought back childhood memories of trying sparklers for the first time on July 4, getting to stay up late on New Year’s and being surrounded by them at my recent wedding. Diamond Sparkler’s dedication to its employees and to its community demonstrates the immense power of loyalty. This brings me hope that businesses with this type of commitment will continue to be a powerful force in the marketplace.

While writing about a seemingly light topic, Julie Washington composed a story filled with the fire of a wonderful group of people who are intense about their work.
Allison Venuto, Richardson, Texas

Editor Adam Pitluk responds: You’re correct on all fronts: Not only are sparklers about as American a tradition as baseball on Sunday afternoons, but so is a company respecting its employees. And to keep the baseball metaphor going, Julie E. Washington hit a home run with this story.

A Great American Tradition
Because my air travel had me flying on the evening of the Fourth of July, I was bummed about missing fireworks and the evening’s festivities. While reading through the latest issue of American Way, I came across a great Americana story (“Keeping the Flame Alive,” July 1).
It serves as a reminder that no matter the differences our country faces, we all believe in the good of the United States. I took a glimpse out the window and saw some fireworks from a town below. Thank you for bringing the Fourth of July spirit to those of us celebrating in the sky, and a sincere thank-you to all of the troops who serve all over the world to protect our freedom.
Lauren Lonson, Astoria, N.Y.

A.P. responds: Lauren, I’ve also flown on the Fourth of July, and I remember flying over fireworks in Chicago and wishing I was down there celebrating. “Keeping the Flame Alive” is a testament to that time-honored American tradition, handed down from parent to child: not just sparklers but also working hard in a factory so that your children can celebrate America.

The Big Cheese
We left Bonaire and arrived way early in Curaçao [for] the 3:30 p.m. flight back to Miami. I had put 35 pounds of frozen Dutch cheese in my checked luggage. Someone on the flight from Curaçao to Miami needed all the oxygen cylinders on the plane. I’m OK with the wait, but my cheese was thawing out. I just knew it. So about 6 p.m., I said please and an American Airlines employee helped me. She had them unload the airplane until they found my cooler. Security brought me ice, watched me open it and lock it up, and took it away. My 12-hour journey home took 36 hours, but I had ice in my cooler and you saved my cheese!
Julia Demaree, Bailey, Colo.

A.P. responds: We here at American Way always appreciate a good cheese story, especially when it involves Dutch cheese and especially when it involves Curaçao, an island nation that we featured on our cover on Oct. 15, 2010. Glad you and your cheese made it back unmelted.

E-Crossword
I have flown hundreds of thousands of miles with American Airlines and have no horror stories to tell; only wonderful encounters with employees who were helpful and personal. The first thing I read once we have taken off and I am settled with a glass of wine is American Way magazine. What I like most are the features on travel destinations. I am really ?grateful that American Way is available online (AA.com/americanway) because I can capture information onto my computer where I can actually be able to find it again! What I don’t like about the magazine and is no fault of the editor: I hate opening up my copy and finding that someone has already done the crossword puzzle.
Lon Hall, Irvine, Calif.

A.P. responds: Even though I read the magazine about four times before it lands in your seatback pocket, I too enjoy a glass of wine with the magazine when I’m off duty and on a plane. And our website, AA.com/americanway, is constantly improving. We also feature web-only content that you won’t find in the magazine. And more proof that you and I are birds of a feather: I also get somewhat discouraged when I get on a flight and my New York Times crossword puzzle (American Way is the only in-flight magazine to run New York Times puzzles) has been filled out. Here’s a secret: I download the puzzle from our website prior to blasting off and complete my own brought-on copy.

People In Need
I was flying through Tokyo (Narita) to Chicago on March 11. We were about an hour away from Tokyo when the earthquake struck northern Japan. At that point, we were diverted to Haneda airport.

While I do not want to dwell on what the next two days were like, I do want to acknowledge the incredible professionalism and stoicism of the American Airlines staff at both Haneda and Narita airports. Faced with grief, tremendous uncertainty about their own families, broken local transportation links, nonstop aftershocks, anxious customers, continuous news reports of the unfolding disaster and just a sense of gloom and sadness, the staff kept calm, stayed at their posts, answered all questions to the best of their knowledge and most of all ensured a very orderly departure for all of us.

I left Narita airport after two days of witnessing all this with a deep sense of gratitude and admiration for the Japanese people and in particular the staff at American Airlines.
Vernon D’Souza, Chicago

Associate Editor Cheryl Krzywicki responds: There are certain events where people remember where they were on that day, and the earthquake in Japan was one of them. I was working as a crew chief on the ramp in Dallas/Fort Worth. One of my crew members was in the Narita airport during the earthquake.

He later told me that he was put at ease by the professionalism and strength which the employees in Japan showed during that time. They were quick to make sure the passengers had blankets and water, and they helped my crew member get back to Dallas despite the fact that he was flying standby. As an employee of American Airlines for over 16 years, I have seen firsthand how my fellow employees come together in times of need to help passengers, employees and the community. Simply put: people helping people.

Love is a verb
It’s so interesting to me how things happen in our lives at just the right time. I was on my way home from visiting an orphanage in Haiti when I read your interview with NASCAR superstar Jimmie Johnson (“View from Victory Lane,” Aug. 1). You see, coming home from this orphanage was going to be emotionally difficult for my 15-year-old son, whom I adopted when he was 2 years old. I have always been challenged in relating to him. This article provided an open door between my son and me for an early conversation after returning home. He loves NASCAR and Jimmie Johnson. Instead of coming home telling him all the things that I experienced in Haiti, I was able to connect with him through this article. Pretty cool how this momma knew very little about NASCAR but came home feeling like a superstar coming down victory lane!
Kim Eller, Keezletown, Va.

A.P. responds: This is about as positive and uplifting a letter as we can hope to receive around here, Kim. We’re honored and humbled that you and your son could take such a positive message away from the Jimmie Johnson profile.

Life at Zappos
What a great article (“(Corporate) Culture Shock,” Aug. 1) about a great American company, Zappos. My daughter turned me on to Zappos a few years ago and now I never buy shoes anywhere else. I was delighted to read that Zappos is not only good at what they do but that they have fun doing it. It was so refreshing to learn there is a company that promotes creativity as well as productivity and understands that those things are not mutually exclusive. After reading their story in American Way, I am even happier to be one of their customers.

Las Vegas may not be known for its heart and soul, but Zappos might change all that with a different kind of sole … and heels and laces.

Thank you for printing such an upbeat article about a wonderful workplace. If I were 20 years younger I’d be applying for a job!
Susie Glickman, Fairhope, Ala.

A.P. responds: I’d never heard of Zappos until I read Bob Whitby’s story. But now, I’m similarly impressed with their corporate culture. It’s no wonder that people are lining up to work there.
Operation Grandma Sally

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Grandma Sally
Reader response to Adam Pitluk’s May 15, 2011, editor’s note about his late grandmother was phenomenal, making it one of our most commented-on stories. One letter came from Lorri Briggs of Parkland, Fla. After reading the editor’s note, titled “Stars Align,” the Briggs family decided to start a movement, whereby whenever they’re in the airport, they buy a meal for a military man or woman in uniform. Lorri titled the effort, detailed in our Aug. 1 issue, “Operation: Grandma Sally.” We encourage you to follow suit the next time you’re at the airport. Support our troops and keep Grandma Sally’s spirit alive.

I greatly appreciated the letter from Lorri Briggs. While I only travel a handful of times during the year, I quickly recognized that her practice of purchasing a meal for military personnel who are also traveling was a practice I could easily adopt and implement. I was anxious to put this practice into play immediately when I landed at Dallas/Fort Worth that afternoon. However, I had a short connection and was supposed to board by the time I reached my gate, leaving me no time to connect with food-service areas in the terminal. I was frustrated at being thwarted in my resolve to implement my new plan. However, I was delighted to discover that, as “luck” would have it, I was seated next to a young man traveling from a training station to his duty station. I was even more excited to find that he was hungry, so I was able to purchase in-air snacks for us both! He was appreciative and I was happy to be able to demonstrate my appreciation for his service in a tangible way.
Marnie Grimmell, Salem, Ore.

To the Briggs family: Thank you for your kind gesture. Last year my wife and I were traveling to see our grandkids on an early-morning flight and were fortunate enough to get an upgrade. As we sat in our comfy seats, I saw a young, tired soldier in uniform board the plane. I stood up and offered my seat next to my wife. At first the young man resisted, but his tired body soon gave way to my bequest. As I took his ticket and started to go back in the plane, I was totally surprised that he had a window seat in the last row next to the toilet. As I sat there my heart sank, thinking about this young man, who after serving our country and placing his life on the line for all of us, was going to sit next to the toilet. As we got off the plane, the young soldier and my wife were waiting for me, grinning from cheek to cheek. He said this was the first good breakfast he’d had in a long time (a nice plug for the American Airlines food!). Later, I found out from my wife that he was on a two-week R&R to see his wife and kids. Needless to say, not only did the young man appreciate the trip but so did my wife, hearing all sorts of stories and adventures from him. I urge all American Way readers to try to comfort these young men and women serving our country and our freedom and liberty anytime, anyplace an opportunity arises. Hooah!
A Proud American, Austin, Texas