I have seen the future of Madison air travel, and it's not encouraging. As you undoubtedly know if you fly out of Madison very much, Northwest Airlines, long the dominant carrier in the upper Midwest, was "merged" with Atlanta-based Delta Airlines, now self-proclaimed the world's largest international airline.
On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, our little traveling party experienced the current state of affairs and the travails of having to touch base in the home of the Braves. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International airport rivals Chicago's O'Hare in ill repute for transport reliability. I've only been to Hartsfield twice, and both times I was greeted by canceled flights and long, long waits for a replacement flight. The last time involved a semi-overnighter; i.e., we got up in the middle of the night at our airline-provided hotel to make a crack-of-dawn flight toward home.
Tuesday's prediction by the FAA that air travel will shrink 7.8% this year, resulting in fewer flights and fewer seats to everywhere, portends that smaller markets, like Madison, will be that much more isolated, that much more expensive. Contemplating Northwest's fate stirs up names like North Central and Republic from the silt of memory. Remember them?
I certainly hope that diminished air travel will not reduce the opportunities such as arts editor Kenneth Burns recounts in his cover story ("I Won on Jeopardy!"). You've got to get to L.A. to play with the high rollers. Burns gives us the view from in front of theJeopardy! game board. His successful encounter with Trebek and company fulfilled a 25-year-old dream. Though he did not achieve millionaire status, as did a certain software engineer also named Ken, he did come home with a nice piece of change after a few January days in sunny Los Angeles.
His co-workers are sorry Burns did not break the bank, but we're happy to retain an A&E editor and get a cover story to boot. And no one had to fly through Atlanta to get the job done.