One Year On, by Rich Paschall

Sunset at O’Hare

It was just one year ago when our boss called the whole group into the conference room for a meeting. The odd thing about it was that after a year at the airline, I don’t recall the boss ever having a meeting with our whole group in a conference room.  Nevertheless, we all headed over there.

It’s a nice conference room. It seemed to get more use as a place to gather for milestone birthdays and milestone work anniversaries. We had gone there for cake or pizza or other goodies. Some actually used it for work meetings, I hear. We were not a group inclined to have meetings. This was going to be different.

After a few opening remarks that I have since forgotten, the boss told us to pack up and go home. The global pandemic seemed to be getting much worse very quickly and we were going to try working from home for a while. Although we did not know how long it would last, we were assured we would be called back in a short time. “Take whatever you think you will need, laptops, docking stations, cords, monitors, anything else to do your jobs.”  Yes, we had to give the company tag numbers to the boss for the computer equipment and then get out. It was Friday, the 13th.

At the end of 2019, the office had been redesigned and remodeled.  The airline was doing well and some assets were being improved for future use. Walls were moved, and new equipment was purchased. Everything looked great. We were to have a grand re-opening celebration in April 2020 when the weather improved. The plan was to invite the freight companies that did business with us. The celebration went on permanent hold.

While the remodeling work was being done, we temporarily moved to an office formerly used by another airline. We had more than enough room to work for a couple of months. The irony was that when we moved equipment to the temporary space and then moved it back, we worked from home for a couple days. We used some new processes that eventually became a lifeline. Microsoft teams were a way to share files and chat with one another while we were out of the office. We learned to use company websites remotely. We figured out how to work from home in an emergency. No one could have imagined in late 2019 that a worldwide emergency was knocking at our collective door.

The Monday through Friday staff left. We went back on March 14th for one more day. At the end of a Saturday, I moved my car as close to the outside door as possible and loaded up some items from my desk. I had a large workspace in the office, I was not sure exactly where I was going to work at home.

By the end of March, some people had been given what was planned to be a two-month furlough. It was hoped that by the end of May things would start to improve and the airline business would start getting back to normal. When two months passed, things were worse. Planes were grounded, staff retired or left the country, others had to be let go. As each month passed we had hoped it would just be another month or two and things would improve. We could then go back to that nice office at the airport.

By mid-summer talk of returning had stopped. We had successfully worked at home for months, why hurry back? We did hope that by the end of the year passengers would return and the airline would be back to around 50 percent capacity. Later that wish turned into 30 percent. It was about 10 percent as the year ended and is no better now.

While many were waiting for things to return to “normal,” and some still are, it became apparent that there will be no return. There will be a new normal someday and we are getting a glimpse now at what that might be. Technology has led to more remote working. There are virtual meetings and shared files, all online. People don’t have to sit in traffic. Companies may be wondering now why they need big offices when much of the workforce can work from home, or from Starbucks for that matter.

One member of our group lives in Hawaii. Another went down to Texas for part of the winter. They can book freight from Chicago O’Hare International airport just as easily as from an office in Chicago.  In fact, we do take care of much of the country.

We may all go back this year when everyone is vaccinated and the company feels it is safe. We have a nice workspace to return to. On the other hand, another year may go by and I could retire. In that case, I would only be returning to bring back the computer and monitors. It’s going to be a somewhat brave new world.

Categories: #Airplanes and flying, Anecdote, perspective, Rich Paschall

Tags: , , , , ,

34 replies

  1. Hi Rich, I see the truck backed up to Air Canada. Is Air Canada your company? Indeed there has to be some good out comes to all this. I know a lot of people prefer not to drive in all that traffic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great story of how hope over time becomes so fragile. Unfortunately, we’re living in a world where we can’t plan but only hope that normality will become the norm again. Just this morning I was talking to my Mother about the places we’d love to go to, no, I’m not talking about a holiday, I’m talking about shopping trips! Just being able to do the things we once did seem like a luxury we all long for.
    Will there be such a thing as a normal life again? who knows but I know, that we must never lose hope. Without that word ‘hope’, we lose the plot completely.
    Keep on hoping and one day we’ll get there.!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry I realise now that you’re in Chicago….. but still: Your post is very informative and rings frightfully true.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Didn’t know that you’re based in Canada and the sorry tale you tell is sadly a story many, many of us know only too well. Yours especially is touching as you had a revamp of your offices just as my husband had too. Only, in his case they created a WIDE OPEN huge space and a central AC system for the whole vast room….. now the company allows max 5 ppl at any one time and every employee needs THREE OK’s beforehand to never allow too many per day.
    Fantastic ‘storytelling’ – it really enlightens the situation very well. Keep up your courage. We need to 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rich lives in Chicago, but works for a Canadian airline (based in Chicago). Yes, a little confusing. Chicago is not far from Canada. It is near our northern border.

      Liked by 2 people

    • As Marilyn has noted, I work in Chicago. It is ironic I can not fly the airline, because of the strict quarantine rules in Canada. THE CDC, FEMA, the Chicago Department of Public Health have all teamed up to vaccinate airline employes this past week. This is to try to assure the flying public things are safe. I got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. I doubt this would have happened so soon under the orange one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have a brother who works for a highly risky Governmental Dept and he got his vaccination a long time ago. Our very elderly mothers got theirs (2nd) ladt week. We have absolutely no idea if we will ever get them… 🤔
        But we have also no plans to go anywhere far soon so we don’t mind.
        One if my first flights was with Air Canada, from Zurich to Toronto. There was ONE flight in ea direction per week!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. there have been so many adjustments and changes, it’s a bit overwhelming when looking back, as well as looking ahead. air Canada is one of my favorite airlines in the world and I hope to be flying on it, sooner rather than later, when it’s safe

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m impressed with anyone willing to set foot on an airplane. I used to get sick every time I flew anywhere and that was BEFORE the pandemic! Great enclosed petri dishes. If you’re going to get the flu, any old airplane will do the job.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ironically, now might be the safest time to travel on some airlines. With longer turn around time, mainly caused by fewer flights, the airline excessively cleans the plane in ways it never did before. They sanitize everything. The company knows if someone gets sick due to their flight, it could destroy the little passenger business they have. I was at the airport Tuesday and the only people I saw while cutting through terminal 2 to get to the Hilton O’Hare for the vaccine were people cleaning things.


    • One of the ways we are keep Air Canada going is to fly places with no passengers. We have even taken the seats out of 8 aircraft to put in some more freight. After losing money every day for a year, we are just trying to find new ways to get revenue.. We would love to welcome back travelers in the second half of the year. We have very few now.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. For me, the year began on my birthday a year ago. We came home from dinner and we were in lockdown. For a few weeks, we all said. No one imagined it would last a year — or more. Or that this little flu-like virus would take half a million lives in the U.S. alone or that our insane president would make it worse by far. We never imagined wearing a mask to prevent the spread of germs could be made into some kind of bizarre political game or that the year would end with an insurrection at the Capitol. It was a genuinely unimaginable year. For however many more years I live, my birthday will also be the beginning of the lockdown.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It began for us on Friday the 13th when the boss called us in. By then we had a feeling that was coming. In time we lost a couple people as well. Ironically the guy I knew for years and recomended me for the job took an early retirement after two months.


  7. I definitely remember that day, exactly one year ago. An email indicating to please stay and work from home until further notice…. Covid turned the world upside down!



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