Ode to America West Airlines
You were a good airline to me!
I used to travel. A lot. Like, an unreasonable amount. I used to travel a lot because I could travel for free anywhere that America West Airlines went. “America Who,” you ask? America West. They were a big airline in the ’90s. I wouldn’t say they were a popular airline because people loved to hate them for some reason, but they were mid-sized players in the American Southwest market. Curiously, they purchased the bankrupted US Airways in 2005 and allowed that airline to absorb its routes as well as its name in a “reverse merger.” Then, in 2015, American Airlines purchased US Airlines, and all hints of America West’s legacy were completely absorbed. Yet, I remember them, and always will, for they were the airline that infected me with the travel bug.
I remember the group interview that I had to do in a room with roughly 75 other people. America West was a local airline based in the city where I lived, and everybody vied to work for them. The interview process was a lively affair where everybody shouted their answers to get noticed. At one point, a question was tossed, and an interviewer randomly selected me to answer it. The question was, “What is the most difficult problem you encountered at work you and how did you handle it? It was a tough question to answer on the spot, but I had no difficulty answering it because the job I was currently trying to leave was nothing but a problem every day. My answer went something like this, “Well, every day where I work right now is a problem. I currently work for a tour company that sells package tours to a place in Mexico that no one has ever heard of. Whenever anyone calls, I have to convince them that they want to go to Guaymas, Mexico. When I finally convince them that it is somewhere they want to go, I then have to convince them to drive 125 miles to Tucson to catch the Aeromexico flight. Every call is a tough sell, but I somehow manage to do it, but I’d rather work for America West Vacations now.” When the group interview was done, no one was surprised to see my name listed near the top. Hell, if I could convince people to go to podunk Mexico, then I could easily convince people to go to Las Vegas.
I write about my experiences of working for America West Airlines in my travel memoir Memory Road Trip. In it, I describe my addiction to taking day trips to various destinations. The airline only paid minimum wage, but they allowed unlimited standby flights for free for all its employees. It always surprised me how few people took advantage of this perk, and I was the only one in the entire office that was known to take a flight someplace nearly every week. I happened to live right by the airport, and I managed to master the art of “day-tripping.” I was always too poor to afford hotels or car rentals, so my habit was to take the first flight somewhere, ride a local bus to a city center, and make it back in time to take the last flight home.
Being based in Phoenix, Arizona meant that the closest destinations were located in California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. I’ve been to every city that America West serviced in each of those states, oftentimes more than once. I was never impressed that it took over an hour to get to Denver’s city center via a bus from their airport that was located nowhere near anywhere convenient; however, I liked going to San Diego because it only took ten minutes to get anywhere upon landing. Mostly, I visited museums, but I also racked up quite the collection of capitol buildings. I went anywhere and everywhere simply because I could, and I took full advantage of the jet-setting lifestyle on the insanely cheap.
America West Airlines was where I started my travel forays, but that is not where they ended. I have since amassed 25+ years of traveling under my belt, and I have many witty and insightful stories to share. I started writing my stories down in the form of a memoir, of which this passage is an excerpt:
“I know now that I went into that desert wickedly unprepared, and I was stupid for hiking in a Nevada desert in the middle of June without any water. I totally get that. However, I didn’t set out with the intention of getting lost out there. I went to the park for the first time the week prior and managed to hike a section of it perfectly fine without any water, so I naturally figured that the second time around was going to be more of the same. The park was insanely pretty, and I desired to get more familiar with it because I thought that I had found my new Las Vegas escape hatch. Unfortunately, that park ultimately proved to be more like my new Las Vegas escape pit, and I was soon going to fall to the bottom of it.”
That is the opening paragraph to my story about getting lost in a Nevada desert. Overnight. Without water. In June. Travel for me is not just a journey, but it is an internal quest. My getting lost in the desert wasn’t a “trip” per se, but it qualifies as a journey of a certain sort. Even though I have been to many places around the world, many of my journeys are cerebral. I call what I wrote a “travel memoir,” but it is more than that. I wrote a “travel journey” where many of the trips occur in and around me. When I travel, I don’t just go to a destination, I feel it. And I bring myself and my entire life with me. When I write about my trips, I don’t just focus on the destination itself, for I write about the person I was at the time I was there. Hence why I titled my book Memory Road Trip. These stories are my memories.
I invite readers to join me on my historical journeys. Memory Road Trip is not only an adventurous journey to certain parts of the globe, but it is also an introspective and witty journey to the mysterious self. For as large as the world is, it has grown infinitely smaller, yet currently exists relatively out of reach. Travel, for the moment, is safer done mentally these days, so now’s the time to go on a Memory Road Trip with someone who knows the way.
My book Memory Road Trip is available as e-book or paperback! Buy it either at Amazon or at most major retailers.