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Flying united



I recently returned from my first overseas flight in 2 years, and while I enjoyed meeting old friends and colleagues, 2 years without travelling was actually quite nice. I had been reading about how challenging it was flying now and was not looking forward to it.



On the return flight, what should have been a 3 hour layover became a 27 hour layover. I was one of the last people on the plane as I had overstayed my time in the airport lounge but was able to find my seat and settled back. The plane had been scheduled to leave at 10am, but due to a shortage of pilots we were delayed until 4pm.



At 4pm the lead flight attendant announced that the pilots would exceed their FAA maximum allowed flight time if we took off now, and as a result they had to find new pilots. We were told we had to get off the plane and wait until they could find new pilots, which it turns out would be 5am the next day.



I am writing this not to complain about the airline - they handled it well. I am also not writing to talk about how upset people were, because they weren’t. I am writing to say how impressed I was with all my fellow travellers who cooperated and approached this situation with a sense of humor and humanity. While I am sure people were disappointed, it did not rise anywhere close to anger, resentment or rage.


These people, I believe, recognized that they were part of a group, and not individuals within a group. They practiced the kind of interdependent actualization written about in the Matrix of Needs™ and did what they could to stand up for themselves and for each other. In 1948, Kurt Lewin wrote about the necessary interdependence of the people in the group. What happens to one member deeply affects other members, he said. There was something about this group that led them to be interdependent and as a result the general happiness of people was palpable as we were making our way out of the plane.


In one of his essays, Leo Tolstoy wrote that “everyone thinks of changing humanity, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” The people who were getting off the plane with me had made decisions that changed themselves, that made them somehow different from the people we read about in the newspapers when they attack flight attendants, other passengers, or both. While I wish there were no delays on that trip and that I would have gotten home a day earlier than I did, I really am glad to have had the experience of being with a group of people who thought of others and themselves.





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