During the past several years, I have taken dozens of airplane trips on various carriers. In doing so, I was shocked to realize that the pre-flight welcome-aboard script had changed. Instead of the head flight attendant referring to me and the other travelers as “passengers,” without exception, we were, greeted as “customers.”
I was shocked. I was horrified. Let me tell you why.
One of my all time favorite movies, based on a terrific book by Ernest K. Gann, is The High and the Mighty. It was produced and dominated by the huge presence of John Wayne. This film was not a western. It was not a war story. It was an airplane disaster movie—probably the first of the genre. In it, John Wayne plays Dan Roman, co-pilot of an airplane soon to be in peril. Dan is a limping, veteran aviator of two wars whose wife and son died in the weather-related crash of a plane that, years before, Roman himself had been piloting. He was also the only survivor of the crash.
At the beginning of the film, one of the flight crew says, “Dan’s the only guy I ever knew who had guts enough not to commit suicide.”
It is because of his resolve to face danger and (temporarily) take command, that Dan saves the plane and the lives of all the people on board. Or, should I say, of all the “souls” on board.