Sunday, May 31, 2009

Skip Powell part six

I must begin by stating my apologizes to everyone, especially Skip, as a result of the respite of this interesting history of Mr. Powell's. Hopefully I'll be 'back on track' now with getting this great story out to all of you...with that, here we go!

'Determining Seat Availability on NC flights was less of an issue, but a labor intensive process. Stations kept system wide Flight Availability Charts, one for each day, "X" days into the future. All NC flights were numerically listed on each days chart with their 'line-of-flight,' for example; 764 SPF RAP PIR ABR ATY MSP.

Central Res Control (CRCRCNC) managed seat inventory, generating many flight status (AVS) messages, like (SS-stop sell, list only) which required stations to put a 'red circle' around indicated sold-out city.

CRCRC could, and often did, generate Limit Sale (LS) messages for a pair of city's for the purpose of generating 'longer-haul' passengers from up-line cities. The city pair on the Seat Availability Chart would be given a blue bracket effectively allowing only 'wait-list' passengers between that city pair. This technique was quite common for North/South bound 15 minute flights via MKE. Many, many AVS seat status messages arrived, requiring red/blue pencil work.

Passenger Rules and Fares Tariff were THE stations passenger ticketing and pricing tool. Updates were published continually by C.C. Squire & Son. It's content, some 4 inches thick, 'governed' fare calculation and related routing rules (a MKG to SFO fare might be vaild via MKE, but not via CHI). For a few itineraries use of a 'hidden' (Example one more distant then passenger destination) would produce a lower fare. Even in those days of relative simplicity, rules and fares were in constant state of change. Keeping abreast of valid travel surcharges, exceptions to 'normal' and disrupted travel (Rule 75), would pale a big city lawyer.

Thank goodness, in those earlier, simpler, golden days, NC Offered only a single class of service, as did most airlines. But, with the arrival of jets (707's, DC-8's and Convair 880's) new classes of service were evolving. Many trunks were adopting 'prime' flights having F (First) and T (Tourist) class plus a few night flights offering reduced Night Coach (FN-TN) fares. JET flights, less common, required a surcharge. It was soon common for all trunk airlines to offer first (A) and coach (T-tourist) class service, and pure-Jet service with an F and Y (coach) cabin. Each service class had its own unique fare, some based on time of departure. At times, surcharges were applicable.

Ticket fare calculation and preparation was a deliberate, manual process. The only available ticketing gadgetry was a ball point pen and a ticket validater (sometimes used as a customer weapon). When prepared, the ticket would be validater 'whacked,' initialed by preparing agent and made ready for delivery. 'Fancy' gadgets like 'routing plates,' some even with embedded fares, came later. Soon to become a SA, one only had to demonstrate the ability to tie only ones shoelaces.

Should a ticket fare be improper or otherwise, one could expect special attention from NC Revenue & Accounting Department, demanding we 'pony-up' cash and/or explain preparation 'logic.' We got pretty good at detail and generating constructive rebuttals after enjoying such notifications.

Ticket payment was mostly cash or check. Credit Cards then were rare, mostly UATP (Universal Air Travel Plan) cards. typically the result of airline trade-out agreements - the original corporate travel card. Checks were common, their acceptance comparable to tip-toeing through a landmine field!

Check acceptance required 3 types of identification, each recorded on check reverse side. In the 1950's and 60's, it was common for some folks not to have such, this use of Library Cards, etc. Others became 'disturbed' (substitute word) to think we could ask 'them for such. A famous character 'objected' to such a request, he walked away - Mr. McGoo thought his 'comic character trumped out requirement - Not!

At times we compromised. However, if that check bounced, liability belonged to the accepting agent. Of course, Rev & Acct folks would issue their demands. I, at times, was guilty, but often successful in my direct passenger collection contracts. One was for $60-$70 bucks, big money. I found the check writer, after maybe a dozen 'on-my-knees' pleading letters and several months - the money arrived.

Ticket selling, PSGR Check-In, excess baggage collections (40 lb limit) along with handling mail, REA (Railway Express Air) express, and fright happened concurrently with such flight handling as In-Range reports, Ramp Checks and ramp work. ATY was favored with four flights in a short period, people were checking in, while earlier flights arrived/departed. Time management was critical.

Cash was strictly accountable. If your cash drawer at shifts end was short, you paid up; be it a dime, a dollar or ten. If over....well, ya know. Some stations, in which I later worked, kept an unofficial (unauthorized) slush fund for this purpose. I never saw one with but a few coins (no paper).

My first big ATY event was a 30 day October vacation without pay. WHY? I permitted the boarding of a nice NC non-rev co-pilot and beautiful stewardess as passengers #27 and #28 on a 26 seat ATY MSP flight. Shades of bad luck, also on board was a FAA guy who took his job seriously, thus my up-paid vacation. I was invited to attend a 'fact-finding' meeting in MSP, chaired by R.H. Baker, the Stations Superintendent. Couple days later, Baker called Sherman and said, 'fire him.' But Bossman Sherman saved my bacon, telling Baker he had already administered severe discipline, '30 days off without pay.' Bakers response, 'oh well, that will have to do,' maybe thinking 'duel' punishment would become a union (ALEA) issue?

Some 15 years later, having worked several years in the GO, still thinking some Mr. Baker had given me the '30 days,' one early morning I walked into his office and asked, 'why didn't you fire me as Sherman expected?' His reply, 'cause a replacement might do the same dumb thing and I expected you had learned a lesson.' It was not until the year, 2008, I learned that Bossman Sherman had saved my bacon, I'm thinking he did not want to train another fishing and etc. partner.

That lesson stuck with me. Some years later, on a nice Sunday morning, we had a full DC-3. Some how, a 27th PSGR had boarded (Stews could not count to 26, but readily recognized 27) and was walking the aisle in search of a seat - exciting the Stew. I having the duty, pleaded for a volunteer to deplane. Adding this plane will not move until someone de-planed - no volunteers. Would you believe (naw, but true, it was a Sunday) my co-agent came on the DC-3, whispered in a passengers ear, 'sir, you have a telephone call.' Yep, he deplaned. Problem solved, flight saluted off the ramp. The former passenger was less than happy!

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