I've always felt a little bit guilty about this, but the past couple of years Steve and I did our London Book Fair flying on Eos Airlines. Business model: put no more than 48 passengers onto a 747, take very good care of them, and charge a competitively reasonable price for it. More than I might have paid if I'd flown business class on American and taken the earliest departures back from Heathrow, but less than if I was competing for space with the people wanting to take the 6:30 PM flight after their day of power meetings in London and sleep in their own bed in NY that night. First class service, business class price.
This was important to me. I've paid my dues in the business, with my starting salary at Scott Meredith Literary Agency being $225/week (even in 1986, this didn't go very far) and when I went out on my own getting by for my first several years on gross commission revenue in the low $30Ks from which to pay all my business and personal expenses. I've never been a big hotel guy. While I don't want to travel on business and be staying in the Super 8 or the Comfort Inn, a Courtyard or Hampton does me just fine and the idea of spending multiples of that to be at the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton has never had any appeal. But the front of the plane was another story. Room to stretch out. Room to read a newspaper without having to use precise subway fold techniques at 35,000 feet. Can I describe the feeling I got in 2007 when I did Eos for the first time, pulled up to the curb at Terminal 4, and had an Eos agent waiting at curbside to bring my bag thru the terminal doors and over to the check-in counter? Or of walking into the Emirates lounge and realizing what a fool I'd been for taking time out for lunch.
Sadly, Eos is no more. All that's left is this. There's a curmudgeon at the Times of London who says they had it coming, but in the face of competition (American started to run a flight to Stansted), high fuel prices, tight credit, and a weaker economy, I kind of think that the salary of their Chief Lifestyle Officer was the least of their worries. I also think it's a little more appropriate during the mourning period to give some thought for the rank and file, some 400 of them, who are out of jobs who gave excellent service. People like Linkin the flight attendant on my outbound both years. The five people who asked me on April 9 how my commute out to JFK had been. That being said, if this had happened two weeks prior my return trip from London would have been very interesting. And in part because they had excellent staff who did an excellent job of pampering and who deserve better than this, I now have 11 many months to stew on how my London Book Fair trip will never be the same. Over my years going to London, I have developed a great fondness for the convenience of the Heathrow Express and for the grandeur of Paddington, and an equally strong dislike for the airport at the other end. The Stansted Express was an extra half hour on the train but a good chunk of it saved navigating the airport. Will American still bother running its flight to Stansted now that they don't have Eos to kick around? Silverjet has gotten another round of financing and may be the sole survivor of the cross-Pond business class airlines (MaxJet having gone broke several months ago) but flies from the least convenient of the NYC airports to the least convenient of the London airports. Will BA's Terminal 5 be fully functioning by then? Will I want to pay even more to AA or BA than I was to Eos so I can get inferior service but take the evening flight, or decide to do the folly of paying an extra night of hotel so I can rush to the airport for the 10AM?
There's only one thing to do, I guess, and that's work really really hard to make even more money for my clients so I can buy time on NetJets, which is in the "if you have to ask how much it costs..." category. The other alternative would be to go back to the Good Old Days when I was making no money and could always count on having time to make a nice homemade lasagna for lunch (it would last 4 days!) several times a year, could always count on my trusty companions PB & J and their Granny Smith to join me at dinner, and when the cheapest coach fare was the only one that counted. Once upon a time, and not all that long ago, I didn't have problems like this. Problems, yes. Like this, no.
- The Brillig Blogger
- A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.