Blue skies, nothing but blue skies, do I see…

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

I was blue, just as blue as I could be
Ev’ry day was a cloudy day for me
Then good luck came a-knocking at my door
Skies were gray but they’re not gray anymore

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

– Irving Berlin

“JFK please!”

They were the words that during my darkest moments in the past week, I sometimes doubted I would ever say again, and I uttered them with relish.

I sat back in the yellow New York cab with a feeling of intense relief. I’d said my farewells to colleague Dermot Davitt who was due out on an Aer Lingus flight later that night and all was set fair to get home the next day. Provided there were no more ash cloud problems, we would be home not just for Christmas but by the next morning.

It’s been a tough week. The direct cost to my business is well over £6,000 and that is small beer compared to the losses felt by others. The disruption was worse; not knowing when I would get home I was forced to cancel my moderating role at the ACI Trading Conference in Malta next week (Doug Newhouse, kindly, stepped in at last-minute notice) and a whole bunch of other meetings in recent days.

My relentless travel schedule over the next three months suddenly looks very unattractive. It is time to reflect on life.  I suspect among the ‘strandees’ I am not alone in thinking that way.

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JFK Terminal 7 was a busy place with long queues at check-in and hundreds of people hoping expectantly to clear their respective waitlists. The food & beverage outlets and Hudson News were doing a roaring trade but, not unexpectedly, the Duty Free Americs stores (impressively revamped and flanked by some great luxury names) were quiet.

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The mood in the British Airways lounge was content rather than euphoric, full of people who like me were simply relieved to be getting home.

On the plane, a very pleasant British Airways executive from the company’s London-based strategy department sat opposite me in the crew jump seat all the way home. He had been stranded, like me, since last Thursday.

“You’re not going to be very comfortable sitting there all the way to London,” I said.

“I don’t care – I just want to get home,” he replied.

The British Airways crew, all of whom had been stuck in New York for a week, were terrific. The airline has, as they say, ‘played a blinder’ during this crisis. CEO Willie Walsh is the constant target of criticism but without his feistiness the breakthrough of recent days simply would not have happened. I have huge admiration for how he handled things.

Mentally and physically exhausted, I thought I would sleep the whole way home. Not a single wink.

With no bags to collect, I could at least escape Heathrow fast but never have I been so glad to see the place. The World Duty Free Arrivals store was trading but, apart from a sales assistant handing out a rather forlorn-looking plate of Lindt chocolates, hardly welcoming. Where was the ‘Welcome back to Britain’ message, accompanied by a great offer on items that just might sell – Champagne, chocolates, kids’ items? I guess the WDF team was just glad to be back at work too. One feels sorry for it and other retailers who took such an unfair pounding in recent days.

Outside at least in arrivals there was a sign proclaiming ‘Heathrow welcomes you home’.

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Indeed. And as I made my way home before sleeping for 9 hours through most of my weekly press day, all I could see was blue skies smiling at me. And you know, for the first time in a week I smiled back.

[Postscript: Thanks for all the positive feedback on this week’s Blogs which seemed to strike a chord with many people. If they kept me sane and my readers amused, then I’m happy.]

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