Confession Time: Kent Ballard made me cry.
Kent Ballard is my favorite storyteller . . . second only to Mark Twain and maybe Ernie Pyle.
His cover story this week, “Last Flight,” brought me to tears as I edited it.
That rascal can write a story to make you cry, then turn right around and write another one that will make you laugh.
He is a Master Storyteller.
You’ll recall Kent’s earlier contributions to The Paper. He had cover stories on July 1st, “Death from Below,” the story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis; on July 22nd he had “The Hairy Handed Gents,” the story of Mr. Big Foot, on August 5th, “The Flood,” recalling the famous Johnstown flood. And now, today’s cover story, recalling the re-uniting of an ancient aviator with ‘his’ plane.
For those who didn’t get to read these earlier stories, you can find them here:
Welcome to America?
Speaking of “Last Flights” we wonder if American Airlines couldn’t use some classes in customer service.
The Escondido and Rancho Bernardo Kiwanis Clubs had arranged to fly in three students from Romania and one chaperone to experience ‘the American Way of Life.’
Having flown for about 12 - 14 hours to Chicago, they boarded their final flight from Chicago to San Diego. They had not eaten and were very tired. Before they left Romania they had changed their European money into American currency.
On the American Airlines plane they ordered a sandwich, which was about $9.50; went to pay for it with a $10 bill and were refused service. “We don’t accept American money on this flight,” said the American Airlines flight attendant. “We accept Major Credit Cards only.”
True, most airlines have gone to this or similar policies but it seems to us some arrangement could be made to feed these young teenagers and their chaperone.
The lads were all starving and were denied food. Had you or I been on the plane, we could have easily put the charges on our credit card and had the lads pay us in American currency. A simple solution that the American flight attendants should have thought of and queried passengers who might be willing to accommodate the visitors.
Understandably, Joe Heard and Dave Imper of the Escondido and Rancho Bernardo Kiwanis Clubs respectively, were furious when they heard what happened.
The Romanian chaperone was similarly incensed. He could not imagine “American Airlines” not accepting American currency in America! We who learned about it at a Labor Day gathering of the Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club were both angry and embarrassed and apologized to our guests for the rude treatment.
The Escondido and Rancho Bernardo Kiwanis Clubs have spent many thousands of dollars to build trade schools and other facilities in Romania for the impoverished youth of that area; they’ve worked to improve life in that country for young people. This trip was designed to allow them to experience America, the most wonderful country on this planet. Somehow, common sense got lost and American Airlines made a bad first impression on our guests. We are sorry!
One great saving grace was the fact that no one else on the plan would order anything in support of the Romanians.