No airline executives have been harmed during the creation of this masterpiece.
Oh, and all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living, dead, undead, or unborn is purely coincidental.
Big Boss sat behind his huge desk, buried (desk, not him) under tons of loose paper, folders, pencils, notebooks, plane models, and kitkat wrappers; Big Boss had a bit of a sweet tooth. He looked around his office proudly taking it all in: the photos of his planes, the photos of his planes on Twitter, and the photos of his planes on Facebook. Then his gaze wandered to another side of the room lined with photographs: him, Big Boss, shaking hands with presidents, celebrities, even Mother Theresa. His face stretched into a smile. He was proud. And he had the right to be.
Things were good. The numbers were even better. Delta showed a good profit in the last quarter. Numbers didn’t lie. To think of all those critics who warned him not to alienate his elites by cutting benefits, stripping down the rewards—where are these critics now? The airline business is cyclical, they said. Huh? Cyclical-shmyclicle!
The fax machine next to the desk spat out a piece of paper. As he read over the document, his smile faded, and his mouth twisted with a grimace of disgust. He shoved some paper off the desk revealing a huge red intercom button built into it. He hit it with his palm as if he was trying to swat a fly. The button buzzed plaintively.
“Millie,” he roared.
A frightened secretary timidly squeezed her head into the door.
“Sir?” she squeaked.
“Bring the weasels,” barked Big Boss. “Now!”
“Yes, sir,” she whispered and disappeared behind the door.
As the machine kept spitting out one page after another, Big Boss kept staring, shaking his head in disbelief. He grabbed a bottle of Scotch out of a drawer and poured the amber liquid into a glass. As he lifted the glass, the door opened and his three VPs entered the room and stood before him.
“What’s up, BB?” asked the First VP casually. He’d been with the Boss long enough and could afford a little familiarity.
“Sir…” the Second VP started, but swallowed the rest when Big Boss raised his steely eyes to him. It was not the look of a happy man.
VP #3—the youngest in the group—opened his mouth too but changed his mind and coughed instead.
Big Boss put down the Scotch and set his steadfast gaze upon the trio.
“Since the merger with Northwest,” he began quietly but forcefully, ”I’ve been building Delta to get where we are today. To get to the point where we would do away with this stupidity. To get to the point where we can afford to flip a bird at all those freeloaders who drain our beloved Sky Miles dry. I have built this airline to be number one at pissing off everyone who stands in our way. We are envied and emulated by the competition. Everyone else wants to be like us. We are number one, for Christ’s sake! So how on earth has this happened?!”
Big Boss shoved the sheet of paper to his first VP. The First read it and smiled.
“Like you said, BB, they just wanna copy us. What did you expect?”
“It’s not funny,” Big Boss growled. “Copy, my ass! United just raised some of their levels by 87%! 87, God damn it! What was our number in August, again?”
“25%,” said the second VP and coughed. He looked nervous. Raising Sky Miles redemption rates by 25% had been his idea.
“Only 25%! And only after June 2014. Why give them time to prepare, those thieves? What were you thinking?” Big Boss looked at him as if the Second had stolen his wallet.
“Sir,” started the third VP, “if I may…”
Big Boss slowly shifted his eyes toward him, while the First shook his head slightly. The Third was the youngest in the group. That youngster never knows when to talk and when to shut up, thought the First.
“Sir,” the Third continued. “We are still well ahead of the competition. A few years ago, we intentionally broke Delta Sky Award calendar so no one could figure out how to redeem free saver tickets…”
“They still manage sometimes..,” muttered Big Boss, but his lips cracked a smile. That memory brought him some comfort.
“Yes, but only the die-hards,” continued the Third, encouraged by his boss’ reaction. “No one who values their sanity will get near the Delta award chart.”
“That’s true,” said the Second. “They’ll spend all their miles on a simple ticket because our calendar makes no sense at all. And they can’t blame us; it’s just a computer glitch, he-he. And we’re working around the clock to fix it. Been years now…”
“And even if they find a good rate on our website, it’s not like they can always book it…” continued the Third with excitement, “and when they can’t and call Delta Customer Support…”
“… our agents can’t find them either!” finished the Second. “Our sophisticated training program is that good! Everybody wins. Except them, freeloaders, he-he…” he added.
All three giggled. But Big Boss was still upset.
“That’s not enough.” He slammed his fist against the desk. “Why do we have to give away a free stopover on a domestic award ticket? No one else is doing that. No one!”
“What’s the difference if they can’t book it on a saver?” argued the First. “If they want to pay 50,000 miles for it, they’re already paying for two flights…”
“Some of those knuckleheads still manage to take advantage of us. This is unacceptable!”
“Maybe we should look into this?” suggested the Second cautiously. “He-he…”
“Still, sir,” continued the Third, “we are so far ahead that every blogger on earth hates our guts. That’s a lot of dedication. Dedication and hard work, sir.”
Big Boss smiled again.
“Is that true? “ He asked the First.
“Well, almost, BB,” the First cracked a smile, too. “Although there is this guy, Rene, who still loves us, apparently.”
“Rene?” Big Boss laughed. He opened up the drawer and grabbed a nice, fat joint waiting as if for that very moment. “Who is that guy Rene, some Frenchie?
“No, sir,” said the Second, and rushed toward him with a lighter. “He’s ours. Red-blooded American. He-he.”
The lighter clicked releasing a bluish flame into the air, but Big Boss frowned again and put the joint next to the glass.
“Bummer!” he spat out. “Any chance we can piss him off too?”
“Not likely, BB,” the First sighed. “He takes everything we throw at him and always comes back for more.”
“What a tough nut! Are you at a concert or something?” he suddenly barked at the Second who was still standing in front of him with the lighter blazing.
The Second jumped back, and put away the lighter. “He-he,” he uttered for no reason.
“OK, so what are we gonna do about this United business?” Big Boss scratched his head.
“How about we raise our award levels some more,” suggested the Second. “Say, 20% more.”
“20%? That’s it? That’s all the balls you’ve got?”
“Sir, if I may…” the Third started again. “Would it really be a good time to raise now? People are pissed at United. We could use that. We could win some converts…”
His colleagues burst out laughing. They laughed so heartily and care-free that the Third froze. Big Boss looked at him in bewilderment and shook his head.
“Boy, sometimes I wonder if you are Delta material.”
Still shaking his head in disbelief, Big Boss took a beautiful gold vial out of the drawer and poured a few lines of finely ground white powder on the desk in front of him.
“If you wanna hang out you’ve got to take her out…” he whispered coarsely.
The First and the Second turned to the Third, who stood before his esteemed colleagues, visibly shaken.
“Buddy,” gently said the First, “We don’t give a damn about short-term converts. We don’t give a damn if they love us or hate us. When DOJ gives its blessing to the sacred union between US Air and American, nothing will matter anymore.”
“No buts,” insisted the Second. “When AAdvantage ups their redemption rates, that’s lights out for freeloaders. Those assh… sorry fliers, will have no one else to run to anymore, he-he.”
“But they can’t do this right away,” the Third protested. “That’s too unsightly. It took United two years after the merger to grow a pair and gut MileagePlus.”
Big Boss laughed again as he was splitting the snow with his Platinum Delta credit card. The metal felt really nice in his fingers. Big Boss loved platinum, it was cool and unassuming. Big Boss hated plastic. Plastic was phony.
“You’ve got so much to learn, boy,” he said and licked his lips.
The First scoffed at the Third.
“They won’t have to wait for two years to gut AAdvantage,” he explained patiently. “They’ll go at it right away.”
“How do you know that?” asked the Third, still not convinced.
“Man, who did you have to screw for your MBA degree? Where do you think their base will go?”
“To us,” laughed the Second.
“Or back to United,” added Big Boss, rolling up a crisp Ben Franklin.
“Then again to American…” picked up the First.
“…or back to us…” exhaled the Third, enlightened. “Wow!”
“This is what I call real beach basketball, son,” said Big Boss sticking the Ben up his right nostril. “The three of us will be the only players on the beach…”
“And the fliers are the ball…” finished the Third for him, shocked by the sheer ingenuity of the scheme.
“See how mergers are good for everyone?” laughed the First.
“Yep, ‘it ‘is good for employees, it is good for communities, it is good for consumers, and it is good for competition’, he-he…“ picked up the Second.
“Hey!” Big Boss demanded, with the Ben still up his nose, “aren’t you ripping off my good buddy Jeff here?”
“Can’t help it, boss,” replied the Second. “I inscribed this on the gates of my mansion. See it all the time. Can’t get it out of my head.”
“Sometimes, I repeat this crap out loud just for the laughs, boss. Never fails to lift my spirit,” giggled the Third.
“Speaking of spirits, BB,” reminded the First lightheartedly, “when were you going to offer us some of that Scotch?”
“Scotch will have to wait. You ain’t out of the woods yet.”
“If I may, boss…” began the Third again. The First and the Second rolled their eyes. Big Boss grunted; he was just about to do the line.
“I think I know how to beat United,” said the Third confidently.
The First and the Second looked at him with interest. Even Big Boss took the Ben out of his nose.
“This better be good!” he uttered, a veiled threat in his voice.
The Third drew a deep breath. Now or never, he thought. He had been the laughing stock of his colleagues long enough.
“When we devalued Sky Miles back in August, we gave them, freeloaders, almost a year to prepare. Apparently, that was a mistake.” He wasn’t looking at his colleagues, but he could feel that the Second wasn’t happy with this statement.
“When United gutted MileagePlus, they learned from our mistake and only gave their members three months, up until February 1st to book at the old levels, right?”
No one answered. They were just staring at him.
“So here is what we do with Sky Miles…” He took another deep breath and continued. “We’ll raise again, and this time will only give them till February 1st to book and redeem at the old rates. Let’s show the scum at United who’s still number one!”
“Brainy!” whispered the First with admiration.
“Brutal!” exhaled the Second.
“Brilliant!” bellowed Big Boss. “People will hate us for it. Great job, junior!”
He got up, skirted the desk and hugged the Third. Bewildered, the First and the Second glanced at one another. BB wasn’t known for displaying his feelings in public.
“I knew you were Delta material,” he whispered into the Third’s ear. The Third blushed, his heart rate racing. It had been a while since he’d been that excited.
“Well,” said Big Boss after settling back in his chair, “As you know, I don’t make any major decisions about Delta without the help of my friends here…” his finger wavered between the Scotch and the blow. “But this is so beautiful…” He brushed away a lonely tear that trailed out of the corner of his eye, but then composed himself quickly.
“Dismissed!” he waved them away.
When the last of the weasels shut the door behind him, Big Boss sat back and smiled proudly. He moved some paper on the table and fished out an old photo of him and Jeff Smisek in a black wooden frame. He grinned at his old friend with an open, almost boyish smile.
“Up yours, buddy,” he said gently, his eyes filled with joy. “Up yours!”