The Frequent Flyer

The Frequent Flyer

Breezing through pre-checked airport security with his carry-on luggage, skipping ahead of the line as his United Airways flight from San Francisco to New York boards and settling into his economy-class seat, Bill Carmody makes flying look easy. That’s because the CEO of Trepoint marketing agency is a member of the million-mile club, traveling about 100,000 miles annually, flying once weekly to meet with clients nationwide—sometimes worldwide. “I have essentially circled the world four times,” says the 40-year-old married father of two from Port Washington. It’s not always as glamorous as it sounds to earthbound travelers. He once sat on the tarmac for 11 hours in Chicago without food on a flight that got cancelled. But he did once land his family in business class on his kids’ first flight, too. “They’ve really gamified the entire flying experience and the game is to see how many miles you can acquire in a given year,” he says, touting the “emotional benefits” of the rewards program. But he understands that infrequent flyers may be miffed to see him skip ahead. “If you’re traveling two, three times a year, an hour out of your life is relatively not that big a deal,” he says. “If you have to fly once a week, it would just be overwhelming.”

The Air Traffic Manager

The Air Traffic Manager

Fresh off of a partial federal government shutdown that forced dozens of his air traffic controllers to work without being paid for 16 days, Mark Guiod calmly leads his managers over a shift change by the dim light of 31 computer monitors. “Let’s have a good shift,” he tells them, resisting the urge to throw on a pair of headphones, take a seat at one of the radar screens and start talking to pilots of one of the thousands of flights overseen by the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control [TRACON] on Stewart Avenue in Westbury. The facility provides approach service for the region’s three major airports—John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and LaGuardia Airport—in addition to dozens of smaller ones, including Long Island MacArthur Airport and Republic Airport. It handled 1.7 million flights last year, with controllers often radioing a dozen flights simultaneously. “People have this image of air traffic controllers hunched over a desk with a cup of coffee, two packs of cigarettes and sweating bullets,” he says in his office seated beside two model airplanes. “Nobody gets on a flight and says, ‘Boy, I hope the air traffic controller is having a good day today.’”

The Pilot

The Pilot

For 50-year-old Brian Hooks of Bayport, a co-pilot of DC-9 twin-engine jetliners for American Airlines—he was Captain Hooks before switching airlines this year—nothing beats flying the friendly skies on a clear, sunny day. Especially if the alternative is sitting on a runway waiting for the weather to improve. “You arrive early and everyone’s happy,” says the second-generation jet pilot. “It’s satisfying to get somebody where they’re going… You’re able to reunite people. That’s about as good as it can get.” Thanksgiving Eve, historically the biggest air travel day of the year, he gets to do just that for scores of loved ones—though he also witnesses plenty of emotional moments with returning veterans or adopted children the rest of the year. While he’s glad to see ridership has rebounded since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, he’s not sure why passengers clap upon landing on some flights and not others. “As far as I can see, it’s random,” he says with a view from the cockpit. “It may be more of family vacation travelers that don’t travel too frequently. Everybody’s always happy to get home or to a vacation. I don’t think the business guys are happy when we fly them from LaGuardia to Chicago.”

The Customer Service Supervisor

The Customer Service Supervisor

Hofstra University Transfer

Of all the customer service jobs in the world, dealing with stressed-out airline passengers rushing to catch their flights easily ranks among the toughest. “Customer service can be very difficult at times, especially when dealing with things…that are beyond our control,” says Sandy Clavin of Holtsville, essentially the top ticket agent for Southwest Airlines at Long Island MacArthur Airport. “Customers sometimes think we can make weather disappear or make planes appear.” Clavin started as a ticket agent in ’99, when Southwest began offering service at LIMA, and now manages a crew of agents—she’s the one agents call over when transactions go south. Inconsolable customers aside, Clavin loves working for an airline that flies kids around for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and makes a big deal for seniors flying for the first time. “Southwest Airlines is obviously a fun place to work, but we do work very hard,” she says. And being based in LIMA makes for a more close-knit atmosphere than working at a big city airport. “It has that small-town feel even though we are considered a New York airport,” she says. “You get that family feel here because we are smaller… I wouldn’t choose anything else.”

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Timothy Bolger is the Managing Editor for the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.