Reinventing Ourselves, by Rich Paschall

When I was much younger, perhaps late teens, and throughout my twenties, I used to like to go down to State Street, “That Great Street,” in Chicago. It was alive in much the same way as Time Square and Broadway in New York were. And yes, just like NYC, our downtown had a somewhat seedy period, but that came later.

“On State Street, that great street
I just want to say
They do things that they don’t do on Broadway, say…”

I particularly liked to go downtown in December to see all the Christmas decorations. Marshall Field’s, the giant department store, had Christmas windows filled with mechanical people, trains, cars, and all sorts of moving parts to marvel at. I was just like the children gathered around the windows to get a good look at the displays. Our fantasy world was mechanical back then. Today it is video, but I digress.

Marshall Field’s at Christmas.  Photo credit: Richie Diesterheft

There was a time when I would plan to do my Christmas shopping, sometimes all of it, on Christmas Eve. I could arrive at the Red Line subway stop right in front of the historic Chicago Theater and go first to Field’s. I might not buy anything there because it was the most expensive stop, but if you went downtown, you had to go there.

After the visit to Field’s and perhaps a purchase of Frango Mints, off I would go to Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, Goldblatt’s, JC Penny. By the time I got to the last of the giant department stores, I would buy everything else I may have needed. Then I could go right out to a subway stop at the other end of State Street and head home. It was a marvelous adventure and has always brought happy memories of downtown at Christmas.

The stores are gone now. Every single one of them is gone. Marshall Field’s is now Macy’s. They have kept the Marshall Field’s plaque outside the building below the famous clock, so as not to upset the locals. They also have Frango Mints. These are the only throwbacks to those days. Except for that one grand store, the department stores of State Street have all been replaced by other businesses or torn down.

Times changed. They did not. Instead of transforming themselves for the future, they waited for the past to come back. It didn’t. I saw these great stores disappear one by one. Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, and Goldblatt’s all had large stores in our neighborhood. When Sears had the motto “Sears Has Everything,” they really did. From washing machines to stoves to clothes, that was our favorite store. Gone.

It is the same with many businesses. As motivational speaker Simon Sinek likes to point out, these are not unprecedented times. Major shifts in business have come before. This one is just “more sudden, absolutely. More shocking, absolutely.”

He gives several good examples we all know are true. The internet changed business. Some companies are surviving now because they have changed the way they work. In Chicago during a period of lockdown, one small clothing shop gave virtual tours of the store and video displays of the clothes. When delivery and pickup was available, people could tour the store online, pick out and pay for what they wanted, and drive to the business, where an employee would come to the curb to hand them their purchases.

Restaurants are gone for good after being out of business for months. Others survived by reinventing themselves as an online product. They found their way to Yelp and partnered with Grubhub, Door Dash, Uber Eats.  Reinvention saved them.

Sinek likes to note that Starbucks did not put the local coffee shops out of business. They offered a newer version, and the old-time shops refused to change. Why would I go to a shop with an old worn-out sofa and year-old magazines, when I could go to one with the latest newspapers, a variety of beverages, pastries, and sandwiches, and importantly for millennials, wifi?

I work for a major airline that is operating at 5 to 10 percent capacity on any given day. Most of its fleet is grounded. It has lost 20,000 people from its workforce. Facilities around the globe go unused. Business disruptions and government regulations eliminated many flight destinations.

The airline industry believed back in March that they could regain 90 percent of their pre-COVID business by December. Now the hope is 50 percent. As the novel coronavirus continues to surge in certain countries, the USA for example, so the hope to recover your business any time soon is fading.

In 2012 Air Canada had launched Rouge, a subsidiary to more effectively compete in the low-cost tourist/vacation travel industry. It was looking at other growth opportunities to serve the ever-growing luxury tourist trade. Their business model was built around these expanding travel markets. That dream has taken off as the last flight from the battleground.

So what is a passenger airline with no passengers to do? The Canadian government is not going to hand the airline billions of Canadian dollars to help it through to the time when business returns to “normal.” The new normal is right around the corner and it does not look like it did in January.

No passengers? Move cargo.

They have to reinvent themselves of course. The 767 Boeing aircraft are being retired early. Accelerating this process for an older part of the fleet only makes sense. They were not being used anyway. Some of the planes had the seats removed to put freight on top, but this is a stop-gap measure. The main deck has no cargo door so this is labor-intensive. Other planes fill the belly entirely for cargo runs, but the seats are not removed. Mail, e-commerce partnership, and cargo and business charter runs are added to the new business model.

What about underserved areas of Canada? The airline has entered into a drone partnership. The initial run was to indigenous people who live on an island. There are many far-flung communities that can be served through a combination airline, drone service.

Without adapting and changing, airlines will die. Some already have gone under while others stay afloat through government bailouts. There are those, including a prominent orange so-called politician, waiting for things to go back to the way they were. We have news for them. It is not going to happen.


Hungry Eyes, by Rich Paschall

My father knew all the best buffet restaurants and Swedish Smorgasbords. For a few years, it was a frequent weekend adventure to accompany my father and his wife to a buffet restaurant. There are not as many of these restaurants as there used to be in our area, and we hope the Covid-19 doesn’t kill off the ones that are left.

After we would go through the food line and start eating all the food we had claimed, my father would usually comment that our eyes were larger than our stomachs. This was because it always seemed like we took too much food. It was odd to have eaten so much that we could not go back to get one of the many desserts. That happened to me a number of times.

Apples and other fall fruits on display

It was the same when we went shopping. We were usually cautioned not to go to the supermarket when we were hungry. Our eyes would be bigger than our stomachs and we would put into the cart more things than we needed. This presented a particular problem when we picked up too many perishable products. According to my parents and grandparents, it was a bad thing not to eat the food on your plate or to buy things just to have to throw them away. “Don’t you know there are people starving in ________” (insert third world country here).

I get it. Those are really sad eyes when you have to throw food away. Yes, food has been abundant in this country and it is usually cheap, but no reason to toss it out.  And it may not remain inexpensive as we suffer through a global supply chain problem.

When you pick up those fruits and veggies at the supermarket, you may notice that they have colorful little stickers on them. They may indicate the company selling the goods (Dole, Del Monte, Chiquita, etc). They might have a Produce number to assist the checker when you reach the cash register. They also usually indicate where the item came from.

Your avocados likely came from Mexico. The bananas probably came from Guatemala, but may have come from Honduras or Ecuador. Yes, we do grow a lot of fruits and vegetables here, but how can fresh fruits and vegetables be in the stores year-round when the harvest season is short?  The rest of the year the goods come from other countries, mostly in South and Central America. In fact, more than half of the fruit sold here each year is imported.

Despite the ease of growing tomatoes, we imported 2.3 billion dollars worth from Mexico in 2018. We got them from other countries too. We do love tomatoes! We also got onions, peppers, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables from Mexico. Check your labels.

One-third of the vegetables are imported. Yes, we do export some fruits and vegetables, but we import three times as much. Now during this unique situation for global transportation, how do all of these goods get here? Yes, there are some airplane freighters flying to some countries, but that is nowhere near the amount of “lift” needed.

The major airlines of the world all have cargo divisions. Their small commuter planes may take small packages to their destination, but those large widebody passenger aircraft carry a large variety of goods. This is how many commodities move from country to country. What if the planes are not flying? There are not enough airline freighters in the world to move cargo around.

The passenger Boeing 777-300 cargo capacity is 24,000 kilos or 52,910 pounds for Americans. About two-thirds of the belly space is used for cargo on the widebody aircraft. Before Covid-19 a large number of air carriers were flying into every major city in the world. Some places now have no international flights, and some just a few. How do your fruits and vegetables get here? Without passengers, many airlines are not flying at all. A few maintain a limited schedule. Air Canada stated recently that they are flying at 5 percent capacity.

Some of the airlines are flying with just cargo. With no passenger revenue, they must charge a much higher rate to make the flight financially viable. Many places need to move their goods now but are reluctant to pay a significantly higher price. What is the market place to do?

If you are shipping a perishable commodity, you can not wait for prices to go down. You pay whatever rate will get your goods to market, or you let them spoil and throw them out. Plowing your crops into the ground is a sad alternative to paying higher transportation costs.

Colombian airline in bankruptcy

How will those South and Central American fruits and vegetables get to North America? Colombian airline Avianca, a major player in South America and carrier of goods and passengers to Miami, has declared bankruptcy.  The airline has not flown since mid-March. They hope to be in the air again soon, but what about the goods that need to fly now?

Some customers have arranged to sign a Blocked Space Agreement (BSA) and even pay an airline upfront to come into their city. This means they will pay for a certain amount of space on a flight whether they use it or not.  The airline can then attempt to sell the additional space, or space in the other direction in order to cover the remaining costs and turn a profit. What does this mean to you?

If the only alternative for our trading partners to sell their goods is to pay a higher price, then they will do it. The result of that will show up on the supermarket shelf soon.

Last week Air Canada ran an all-cargo flight to Avianca’s home town of Bogota. They will run another soon. They are also running a cargo flight to Buenos Aires and on to Santiago. There was also one to Punta Cana and Montego Bay this week. They will try to work with South American sales teams to maintain some of these routes. Other airlines are attempting all cargo runs as well. No one is offering to move things at pre-COVID-19 prices.

Air Canada has now removed the seats of 4 777-300s and will do the same for one more, plus 4 Airbus 330s.

Sources: “A Surprising Amount of Your Fresh Fruit Actually Comes from Outside the U.S.,” by Abbey White, Food & Wine, foodandwine.com March 14, 2018.
Top Imported Fruits Most Loved by Americans,” by Daniel Workman, World’s Top Experts, worldstopexpert.com April 18, 2020.
Our Fleet & ULDs,” Air Canada Cargo, aircanada.com
Some of the world’s airlines could go bankrupt because of the COVID-19 crisis, according to an aviation consultancy. See the carriers that have already collapsed because of the pandemic.” by David Slotnik, Business Insider, bussinesinsider.com May 12, 2020
See also: “The Global Supply Chain Disruption,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, April 15, 2020.
Sending and Receiving Stuff,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, May 9, 2020.
Note: I worked in freight forwarding for 35 years. I have worked for Air Canada Cargo for the past year.


The Supply Chain and You – Rich Paschall

Toilet paper isles in most stores in New York and CT

This is about more than the amount of toilet paper you can get the next time you go shopping if you can get any at all. This is about all the other stuff. We all have a lot of stuff. Some of the stuff is made up of lots of stuff from various places. No manufacturer actually makes all the items they use when they assemble stuff for you. Cars, radios, televisions, stoves, washing machines…well you name it. They were probably made with items that came from various sources. This means the shipping and receiving of goods play an important role in all the things you buy.

Even the simplest of goods rely on an efficient means of transportation. People have gotten so used to getting things quickly, that people are actually lodging complaints with Amazon for not delivering their groceries, widgets, or whatever on the same day, or even a two-hour window where they offer it. Transportation companies are down-sizing. Airlines are grounded. People are sick. Stuff is not moving like it used to move. It’s not going to recover overnight, even if some politician says it should.

For example, POTUS has ordered meatpacking plants to remain open and ship to stores. Despite his “executive order,” plants are closing around the country.  In fact, seven more have closed since he ordered them to stay open on April 28. One hundred sixty-seven plants have had coronavirus outbreaks and over 9400 people were stricken. At least 45 have died. Sorry, but the bacon order is going to be delayed.

While a lot of these companies use their own trucks to get food from point A to your grocery store, others rely on other truckers and the airlines to move their product around, but what if the trucks are not trucking?

Truck Transportation.

You see trucks of all sizes all over the road. If you live near an airport you likely see quite a few due to the practice of locating truck terminals near airports, seaports, and rail yards. Like every industry, trucking has been hit by illness. So have warehouse workers, ground handlers at the ports, trucker loaders, document checkers, security guards, and a variety of people who are part of the transportation chain. One COVID-19 outbreak at a truck terminal can shut it down for a day or more while the area is sanitized. After that, you can understand a reluctance by others to return to the scene.

If goods are traveling across the country by rail or plane, then you have to rely on a trucker to pick up the goods and deliver to the destination. But that might actually be several truckers. One picks it up and takes to his terminal. Someone unloads the goods and then loads to another truck with other items going across the country or to the airport or wherever.  There are many people handling goods in the supply chain and for some industries, the chain is just broken.

With many factories and warehouses shut, some truckers have stopped working on the weekends. Some have far fewer truck runs and it is not economical for an over the road trucker to go with a half-empty truck. His company may have him wait until the truck will be full, at least in one direction. Hence, YOUR goods are delayed.

Air Transportation.

Sometimes your goods are moving around by more than the freighter airplanes. Widebody aircraft usually fill up to two-thirds of the belly space with cargo. Even those small planes might be moving small packages along with the people. Air Canada for example, was moving one to one and a half million metric tons of cargo a day systemwide prior to an almost complete halt of shipping due to COVID-19. Every airline is in the same situation.

Pinal Air Park, Arizona

If many millions of tons of cargo a day can not move, how do things get from place to place? From mid-March to until now, the demand has been down, but there is still some demand. As a point of full disclosure, as they say, I work for Air Canada. I have worked in transportation for over 35 years. In the last six weeks, I have probably said no to more requests for bookings than I have taken.

The skies are starting to open up as more places are allowing flights, but there is one big problem for passenger airlines like Air Canda, United, American, Delta, and so on. How can you fly those big passenger planes without passengers? An orange politician may tell us that everything is OK and we can all go back to normal but are you going to go to a crowded airport and take a flight anywhere in the next few months?  No, I didn’t think so.

By the end of March, the airline industry had felt that they could get back to 90 percent of the business they were doing at the beginning of the year by this December. The prediction now is 50 percent.  Air Canada said this week that they are currently operating at 5 percent of capacity. For your stuff to move, there are fewer flights on all airlines, and the cost can be as much as six times higher than it used to be to move your stuff from here to there. How long can that go on?


Seats removed from Boeing 777

So what do you do with an airline that has most of its fleet parked and a slow recovery ahead? You know you have to bring the cost of transportation down, even if you can not bring it to pre-COVID-19 levels. So, you have to reinvent yourself. Survival depends on it.  Air Canada will retire 79 aircraft this year, roughly 1/3 of its fleet. It will become much smaller in the hopes of building back up. And what about all those large airplanes? Increase cargo capacity.

Air Canada has removed 442 seats from 4 of their 777 passenger flights and will do the same with another one as well as three Airbus 333. The seat tracks on the floor work well to secure cargo netting and the main deck can be loaded with cargo. There is no cargo door, and loading equipment can not be used. But the short term solution, although labor-intensive, is to replace passengers with cargo so your stuff can get here.

No passengers? Move cargo.

Sources include: “Trump executive order didn’t stop meat plant closures. Seven more shut in the past week,” By Kyle Bagenstose and Sky Chadde, USA TODAY, May 5, 2020.
See also: The Global Supply Chain Disruption, The Pandemic Problem, SERENDIPITY, April 15, 2020.


Now that supply and delivery logistics are breaking down throughout this country and the rest of the world, this might be something to which you might want to pay attention.

The Pandemic Problem, by Rich Paschall

Arriving at Chicago O’Hare

It is a lot quieter at the airport these days. There are few passengers, therefore fewer flights. The drop off is significant. The reductions will continue, not just because of a fear of flying by the public, but also because of the restrictions put into place by countries around the world.

After over 30 years in the freight forwarding industry, I joined an airline last year. I have been working for Air Canada at Chicago O’hare International Airport. ORD is one of the busiest airports in the world. In fact, it has been ranked 6th in recent years. There were over 83 million passengers served at ORD in 2018.

On Friday of last week, we were told to take home our laptops and whatever else we needed and not come back until told to do so. My “office” unfortunately is now less than 15 feet from my refrigerator. I’ll survive.

About Air Canada

Here is a little info on the company from a press release issued Wednesday. I tell you this not as a company promotion since you aren’t going anywhere, but so you will understand the problems that lie ahead:

Air Canada is Canada’s largest domestic and international airline serving nearly 220 airports on six continents. Canada’s flag carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and in 2019 served over 51 million customers. Air Canada provides scheduled passenger service directly to 62 airports in Canada, 53 in the United States and 101 in Europe, the Middle EastAfricaAsiaAustralia, the CaribbeanMexicoCentral America, and South America.

Needless to say, they have an extensive schedule. Unfortunately, I can not read the flight cancellations fast enough. Many weeks ago we stopped flying to mainland China. Flights to Seoul, Korea, and Hong Kong have been cut by more than half.  The extent of the outbreak in Italy stopped flights to Rome and delayed the return of the Air Canada Milan flight. Other lanes have stopped or will stop.

You will notice above that not counting the USA and Canada cities, there were 101 international airports served, most with wide-body aircraft. By the start of April, that will be cut to 6.  SIX! We know passengers don’t want to fly.  All airlines are cutting flights. But what about your freight?

Freight Forwarding

To simplify the explanation, I used to tell people that a freight forwarder is like a travel agent for your freight. It is a lot more complicated than that, but it is the best I can do.

ORD is quiet now

There are a lot of regulations and hence a lot of paperwork to complete. Since 9/11 and the “known shipper” rules, it became more complicated. Follow that with a realization made a few years ago that we really ought to be screening freight because we screen all passengers. This made the challenge greater.

I would tell people if they have a package of a few pounds and of low value, they ought to call UPS or FedEx or even take it to the post office. If you have a thousand pounds, the first two might take it at a high price, the last, probably no chance at all.

So how do all these goods get around the world? If they need a thousand widgets in Lyon, France and you have to get it there in a few days, there are a number of airlines that could help. They could fly to Paris and truck to Lyon. Yes, most airlines have a trucking network in place. That allows them to get to most major cities in the country to which they fly. When you consider “interline agreements,” some airlines can take your freight almost anywhere in the world. Air Canada does not serve Antarctica, but they are working on plans to serve the more remote places in Canada.   Think drones.

Belly Space 

If you ever gazed out the window while airline handlers were loading an aircraft, you may have noticed that they were not just putting baggage on board. On the widebody international flights, up to two-thirds of the belly space could be filled with cargo. Multiple positions could hold boards of freight (airline pallets) that are 125 inches long by 96 inches. Stacking the freight up to 64 inches high you could get up 4000 kilos (8800 pounds) in each spot. Yes, that’s a lot of cargo.

Chicago Department of Aviation says ORD handles “just under two million metric tonnes of cargo per year.” Consider all the large airports in the USA, Canada, and Mexico. They are all sending out goods and bringing goods back. The supply line is about to be slowed to a trickle. As plants shut down around the world, fewer goods will be shipped.

Now we are in the unfortunate position of turning away cargo for lack of flights to some areas. Soon the number will choke industry. Remember the numbers above. One hundred and one airports served are now cut to just six. USA and Canada service will also be curtailed. How will our goods get to foreign customers? How will their goods get to us?

The Darkest Days

How can we keep everyone working when there is little work? How does a factory work if it can not get its supplies? Many may want to ship us goods, including food, but how will they get in if we close the borders?

The darkest days are ahead, that’s for sure. I am not trying to scare you to death, although you should be scared. Conserve. Be safe. Wash your hands. Stay home as much as possible.

Leaving on a jet plane

After the darkest days and nights will certainly come the dawn. We survived the slow down that followed 9/11. We had days of no flights and then a slow return. This will be longer, but the return to normal will come.

The sun will shine for you again. In order to help you with that, I am lining up sunshine songs for Sunday.  Seriously.

Come and sing along with us. At a social distance, of course.


In summary, traveling to Arizona on JetBlue was like travelling first class, almost. Coming home via American Airlines was like being luggage. But less comfortable.


It was a very long ride home, though shorter than flying westward. Eastbound, we had a tail wind that got us to Logan an hour early.

It seemed much longer. Not only were we starved — which I expected and for which I was prepared having brought a variety of semi-nutritious snack food (do salted peanuts and Fig Newtons count as nutritious?) and a large bottle of water. Bought at the airport because food for which you pay ten times the normal price is safe, while food bought in a grocery at normal prices will explode on impact.

I think we could have been dead in our seats on our return flight on American and only other passengers would notice. The flight attendants were in the back of the plane, playing cards. Having, as far as I can tell, a fine old time.


There was no entertainment. No television. The WiFi was not free. They wanted $12 (each) for 60 minutes (each) — and the Patriots-Kansas City game was on. Which was more than an hour. They had whacked us with a $25/per bag luggage fee … and wanted another $12 from each of us to use their WiFi? For an hour? It wasn’t even unlimited WiFi. You had to watch one of their programs. Mean-spirited bastards run that airline.

As I told the attendant, “Your airline sucks.” She agreed. They probably treat her like luggage too. Don’t fly American Airlines.

We managed to get the score in real time on our smart phone. It somehow connected to the WiFi despite the firewall American Airlines erected. Let’s hear it for Google. When the game ended, Garry and I had books on our Kindles, so we survived without WiFi …and those salted peanuts helped too.

When we got home, it was obvious no one had cleaned since we left. Talk about filthy. Wow. Two weeks of dog hair, sand, and odeur de canine. The Christmas tree is still up (“Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it and I’ll put the wrapping paper away, I promise”). Right. Sure. Uh huh.

I swept three times before unpacking anything and washed the floors twice this morning, but it’s going to take a lot more scrubbing before the place is habitable. I’m not a clean or neat freak, but I draw the line at genuine filth.


The kid’s going to be 47 in May. You’d think he’d have a grip on “clean,” wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.

We are home. No fresh food because we used it all before leaving. Today I threw away about five pounds of leftovers that had become lethal-looking science experiments during our absence. Garry made a very short trip to the grocery store. We needed half-and-half. That’s not groceries. That’s survival.

Tomorrow we’ll deal with The Rest of the Story. Today, it’s football and not being in transit. Sorry I missed your blogs today and yesterday. I’m surprised I’m awake and almost coherent.


While we were away, someone won the $1.5 billion PowerBall. Even after taxes and fees, it’s still more money than I can imagine having. More money than Garry and I earned in our entire lives. Combined. Before taxes. More money than us and all our friends had or ever hope to have.

Someone won it. On a $1 lottery pick. Go figure.

NOTE: We have concluded that there is a secret interaction between hair gel and PowerZero so dangerous and explosive, it is banned from the air! That’s the only sense I can make of it. Who knows what hidden dangers lie in your luggage?