Black Friday 2020 Countdown: The Last Days of Austrian Airlines’ Station JFK

I

2009 was a transitional yr for Austrian Airways as an organization and in North America. More and more straddled with debt and unable to reverse the plummeting monetary scenario created by low price provider competitors, escalating gas costs, and the financial recession, its very existence was threatened till a July settlement with Lufthansa-German Airways, beneath which it assumed its financial obligations and bought nearly all of its shares, was concluded. European Union approval of the acquisition was obtained two months later.

Like many worldwide firms which have been compelled to outsource features after which surrendered to takeovers, it was subjected to a number of elementary adjustments, significantly at its JFK station.

That is how its remaining chapter unfolded.

II

In search of an funding associate to revive its monetary viability, Austrian Airways explored a number of choices, however step one to an answer occurred on March 2, 2009, when Lufthansa made a public supply for the tri-carrier Austrian Airways Group after it reached an settlement with the state holding firm to buy a 41.56-percent stake in it. The 4.46 euro-per-share supply, nonetheless, was contingent upon it receiving antitrust immunity and the approval of 500 million euros of restructuring assist from the state holding firm. It additionally hinged upon Lufthansa’s acquisition of a minimum of 75-percent of its everlasting voting shares.

For North America the clock was already ticking, and nothing foretold its destiny greater than the sequence of obligation journeys undertaken to barter new agreements. Though Austrian Airways celebrated each its 20- and 40-year transatlantic service jubilees on March 26, the event was bittersweet, because it appeared unlikely that it will obtain one other, a minimum of not with its personal employees.

Certainly, throughout one of many earliest obligation journeys to Toronto, an settlement was reached during which all operations could be assumed by Lufthansa, eliminating the necessity for its workers. It grew to become solely the primary of three to be signed.

Spring normally signaled renewal, however not of Austrian’s employees contracts. A second Canada journey, in April, marked the transition, with JFK Station Supervisor Michael Steinbuegl overseeing the Centralized Load Management and Responsibility Supervisor Dorit the passenger dealing with parts of it.

With the daybreak of Might, the primary of JFK’s employees members additionally departed. Jenner, who had been employed as a Ticket Gross sales-Reservations Agent for 3 years, was laid off due to “budget-necessitated reductions,” and the empty seat subsequent to Sidonie, head of the division, appeared like a void, symbolic of a strongly missed member of the family.

The dismantling continued. Whitestone, Austrian Airways’ North American fortress, handed its reservations torch to Lufthansa on the tenth of the next month, or what may have been thought of the airline model of “black Friday

If there have been any doubts in regards to the hammer hitting the nail, they had been eradicated on August 28, when the European Fee formally accepted Lufthansa’s acquisition, which itself consisted of 500 million euros of restructuring help from the state holding firm and the merger between the 2 carriers. As a way to obtain the required antitrust immunity, nonetheless, Lufthansa agreed to relinquish key flight slots and cut back the variety of frequencies between Vienna and Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, and Stuttgart.

Austrian Airways itself was slated to develop into one in all its many unbiased, European hub carriers-in this case, a Vienna-based one feeding site visitors to its Central and Japanese European locations.

The autumn fell hard-emotionally-for Austrian’s JFK employees members and the obligation journeys, throughout which the plugs to its North American stations had been pulled, continued.

Lufthansa workers had been versed in Austrian’s ticketing procedures, whereas two managers departed flew to Vienna to debate ground-handling particulars in New York.

Affirmation of the stations’ inevitability signaled its loss of life knoll: Lufthansa would assume all ground-handling later within the yr and all however the single JFK station supervisor and its two obligation managers (the writer included) could be launched from their contracts at the moment. Even these, nonetheless, had six-month limitations.

The information, the equal of eradicating the wing of an plane in flight, prompted feelings to spiral to the bottom, leading to disbelief and melancholy, and this was solely exacerbated when the top of floor operations knowledgeable Swissport that its JFK contract could be canceled on November 16.

Sharing the station’s destiny together with his full-time employees members, Patrick, Austrian Airways-Swissport Account Supervisor, tried to cushion a blow that phrases couldn’t obtain.

Unhappiness, demotivation, and resignation hung within the air like thick jet fumes.

The clock’s hand continued to unwind and the anticipated parting phrases started to filter in. Lengthy-time Austrian Airways Station Supervisor at Washington-Dulles Worldwide Airport, Regula, as an example, despatched the next telex on September 14.

“As you might have heard,” she wrote, “Lufthansa will take over the dealing with of our station tomorrow. Due to this fact, it’s time for me to say goodbye.

“It isn’t simple, as I’ve met numerous nice individuals throughout my years at Austrian Airways and I had a chance to be taught quite a bit. With this, I want to thanks for all of your help and friendship over the previous couple of years.”

Like a brief string of dominoes, Washington was the second of the three North American stations to fall.

Of no matter small worth it served, I elected to finish every day by day briefing with a “group remedy” session in order that Austrian Airways and Swissport workers may discover their feelings in regards to the pending “household break-up.”

On September 15, Michael Steinbuegl, JFK Station Supervisor for 4 years, was promoted to Key Account Supervisor, North America, and have become liable for all three North American stations: New York, Toronto, and Washington.

The one factor anybody had now was the longer term. The pinnacle of Floor Operations mentioned the explanations behind the station adjustments with the 2 remaining JFK obligation managers, they usually subsequently met with the Lufthansa Station Supervisor to debate potential integration. Patrick held a gathering together with his personal administration to discover the migration of Swissport personnel to different JFK accounts.

Because the calendar flipped into October, one of many employees members famous on the washboard used to element the day by day flight info: “Countdown: 45 days.” And within the “Notes” part of the day by day briefing sheet, I urged, “Smile whilst you nonetheless can. The times are working out.”

Clarifying the occasions, Paul Paflik, former Space Supervisor of North America, wrote, “Because of the financial atmosphere, I remorse that we, as an organization, had no different option to survive however to use the complete price synergies with Lufthansa wherever we may. This contains shut cooperation on the stations worldwide. It’s unhappy for a few of our devoted employees, however, once more, we had no different selection if we wished to outlive as an organization.”

The remainder of the Austrian Airways’ route system equally fell sufferer to this actuality.

A former JFK colleague, as an example, who had since labored at a number of different stations, wrote, “Lastly, the ax has come spherical to smite me down as properly. I’ll go away Austrian Airways after 20 years… It appears as if I’m not wanted inside this Austrian ‘New Era.’

“We walked a 20-year path collectively, which has predictably terminated with the long-awaited ‘Anschluss’ we joked about many instances, however we had one way or the other at all times narrowly averted. Now that the inevitable has come, it means the tip for many people.

“There may be an ironic parallel to the Star Trek saga right here. It appears that evidently we, the previous, authentic crew, have been left behind in our previous ship to float away out of sight, changed by Lufthansa. The nice ship ‘Austrian” is gone perpetually.

“So I say farewell with no regrets and a bag filled with fond reminiscences to take with me slung throughout my shoulder.”

Andre, an Austrian Airways Cargo Gross sales Supervisor, summed up the prevailing feeling.

“What can I say,” he wrote? “From the beginning, by the center, and to the tip, your life experiences deliver out your feelings.”

The mixing had already begun. Launched to Lufthansa operations, I used to be requested to look at one in all its 747-400 flights to Frankfurt.

Unwinding to the one-month mark, the calendar’s clock indicated October 15 and on the day by day briefing sheet I famous, “Observe the date and depend backwards from 30… “

Issuing the final Austrian Airways obligation roster on October 18, the station supervisor distributed it to his employees, but it surely abruptly terminated on the 16th of November for all however two of them.

Like advancing forces, two Lufthansa Responsibility Managers started to familiarize themselves with Austrian flight preparation procedures. Might there be any query now?

Halloween dawned delicate, however blustery, inflicting the streets to be blanketed with crimson and gold leaves. However the blows continued internally, inside station JFK, and cargo was the subsequent to go-and to say goodbye.

Confirming this, Peter Schleinzer, Austrian Airways North American Cargo Supervisor, despatched the next discover: “That is to advise you that Austrian Airways Cargo will likely be transferring and transferring its Air Cargo Operations and Gross sales actions from Menzies Aviation, Constructing 75, to Lufthansa Cargo, Constructing 23.”

Clearly, no division or division could be exempt.

November 1 marked the final portion of the collective Austrian-Swissport journey. Fifteen days remained till the street would fork.

The following transition occurred on the ramp. In an inner electronic mail from Lufthansa Responsibility Supervisor Edwin Haas, he wrote, “As a way to put together for Austrian Airways, I want to guarantee that you’re all conversant in their ramp procedures. Due to this fact, please make it possible for one agent per day is current to look at their operation.”

Data continued to be transferred. A number of Passenger Service familiarization courses got to Lufthansa check-in employees and their supervisors had been versed on Austrian flight preparation procedures. Their blue uniform presence had already begun.

The parting messages additionally continued. Helnut Haubenwaller, Chief Boeing 767 Pilot, despatched the next electronic mail in early November.

“With the ultimate days for the Austrian Airways JFK Station to come back, I want to thank all of you on your skilled, solution-oriented, and always-friendly work at Terminal One. Your motivation and the standard of the dealing with of our flights has at all times been of the very best degree, even when different elements typically made life tough. From crew check-in to receiving the load sheet and leaving forward of schedule, all of you gave us the sensation that we had been departing a house station. And we all know that you just did much more for our crews than anybody may have anticipated.

“As soon as once more, a giant THANK YOU and all the perfect to all of you from Austrian Airways Flight Operations.”

Attribute of any transfer was its preparation and packing. Sending the next electronic mail reminder to station employees, I wrote, “It’s with a heavy coronary heart and far sorrow that I need to remind everybody that the times are quickly dwindling and that we have to start the prolonged clean-up means of our ‘dwelling.’ New tenants have already taken a take a look at our residence and intend to maneuver in on December 1.”

Like reminiscences, the previous flight information had been deposited into historical past.

Friday, the 13th, was a desolate, grey, wet day. Then once more, all of them appeared to be that fall.

The “dwelling” the employees had so painstakingly created over time started to be dismantled, diminished to reminiscences, and their remaining time as a joint Austrian Airways-Swissport station may now be measured in hours.

Anybody clinging to the final hope of being rehired by Lufthansa was abruptly disillusioned once they learn the most recent telex.

“I’ve been knowledgeable by Lufthansa right now,” wrote the top of Floor Operations, “that, sadly, they’re unable to take over anybody from Austrian Airways as a consequence of authorized causes.”

Why would anybody anticipate a silver lining at midnight cloud that hovered over station JFK now?

Regardless of what could also be emotional makes an attempt to organize for actuality earlier than it happens, the November 14 be aware on the washboard rapidly nullified that idea. “Countdown: 1 day,” it stated. And if it wanted any extra proof, it got here within the type of an electronic mail on the identical day.

“Please be told in regards to the following adjustments at JFK as of November 16, 2009,” it stated:

“Supervision and Station Administration: Lufthansa.

“Passenger Dealing with and Misplaced and Discovered: Lufthansa.

“Weight and Steadiness: Centralized Load Management, Lufthansa.”

The one hope anybody had now was they might quickly get up from the identical nightmare. They did not.

One other acknowledgment of the scenario’s finality got here within the type of a letter from Pio Neria, Swissport Terminal One Supervisor.

“Thanks very a lot for all of the issues we went by collectively throughout the previous seven years,” he stated. “It was typically enjoyable and memorable.

“Mike, thanks for at all times treating the Swissport employees as one with Austrian Airways. That is one thing that doesn’t occur on a regular basis and one thing we won’t neglect.

“Robert, thanks for all of your help and for guiding and grooming the employees members.”

November 15 was delicate, however grey and heavy, as if an anvil had been pounded into it, and the largely fallen leaves left the timber naked, reflecting everybody’s inner vacancy. At this time, they might write the final web page of Austrian Airways’ station JFK historical past.

All Austrian and Swissport employees had been scheduled to work that day-or, extra precisely, to say “goodbye” that day.

Omi, carrying private garments, walked into the workplace at 11:40 and mechanically requested, “What’s up?”

“Effectively, that is the final day,” I hesitantly replied. “Let me see if I can discover one thing else… “

Swinging her head round, she appeared on the washboard, whose be aware hit her like a bullet. “Countdown: zero days,” it stated.

The 1:30 briefing, one way or the other arriving extra quickly than it had on another day, may barely help the greater than 20 employees members, as many, braking from their conventional, company-dictated roles, confirmed the group’s disbandment. Damian learn a part of the briefing sheet, whereas Monica and Madaive grew to become non permanent “Supervisors of the day.”

The “Notes” part of the briefing sheet learn: “Final day, final briefing, final chapter.”

Flooded with emotion, I learn the “Parting Speech” I had ready, however typically felt as if I had been wading my method by a thick trench.

“On New Yr’s Day, January 1, 2003,” I started, “I sat at my traditional desk and then-Station Supervisor Mary Tretter walked into this very workplace. Lufthansa, which had carried out most of Austrian Airways’ ground-handling at JFK in Terminal One since Austrian itself joined the Star Alliance, handed the torch to Swissport USA that day. Since Lufthansa was properly acquainted with our procedures and used their very own pc system, she had some trepidation in regards to the transition, wanting me within the eyes and asking, ‘Are we actually going to undergo with this right now?’ That was January 1, 2003. At this time is November 15, 2009, or nearly seven years later. The interval proves two issues to me:

“First, that point passes a lot sooner than you assume. And second, that nothing within the bodily world is everlasting. All the pieces has a starting and every thing has an ending. And I believe you recognize which finish we’re at right now. We now have completed a lot in these briefings. Now we now have one final order of enterprise to complete-namely, to say goodbye.

“All of us traveled this street collectively. For some it was longer than for others, however the variety of faces seen and the occasions skilled throughout that point, each good and unhealthy, is sort of unfathomable.

“The street, nonetheless, is definitely a shorter portion of the longer ‘life street’ all of us stroll on a regular basis, in that each function developmental paths and thresholds to our final, increased existences.

“Of that improvement, there are two sorts. The primary, the skilled one, contains studying, understanding, and performing job-related features, akin to Passenger Verify-In, Ticketing, Baggage Providers, Ramp Supervision, Load Management, and Administration. The second, the private one, offers extra with persona and character refinement, strengthening, and development. You could have all, whether or not you understand it or not, engaged in each sorts right here, the place many profitable skilled and private chapters of your individual lives had been written. For a lot of of you, Swissport typically, and Austrian Airways specifically, served as your entry into the airline business. None of you’ll go away right now the identical method you got here in–that is, whenever you first started your employment with us.

“Annie, as an example, is one in all solely two remaining from the unique workforce and holds the third highest seniority of anybody on the station. Having weathered the Delta Air Strains code-share settlement, the joint Austrian Airways-Sabena-Swissair station beneath the Atlantic Excellence banner, the Star Alliance, quite a few floor dealing with firms and ideas, and 4 terminals, she was instrumental in constructing JFK over the previous 15 years, and has carried out Passenger Service, Ticket Gross sales-Reservations, Ramp Supervision, and even Responsibility Supervisor features, in addition to a myriad of different actions too quite a few to quote right here.

“Sidonie, with whom I’ve shared extra alternate names and recipes than another particular person, led her workforce to and on the Ticket Gross sales-Reservations counter.

“Dorit, who joined the JFK workforce as Responsibility Supervisor in 2006, was instrumental in creating the North American Station Ticketing Procedures Coaching Program, having ceaselessly taught in Chicago, Toronto, and Washington, in addition to having sometimes carried out this perform right here at JFK.

“Ecaterina was one in all solely two to transition from Swissport to Austrian Airways, and through her five-year tenure has carried out Passenger Service and Ticket Gross sales features.

“And Susanna, who was the one one to affix the airport employees from Whitestone, equally carried out Ticket Gross sales features. Though she was solely with us for six months, we rapidly got here to like her.

“Patrick, with Swissport, has held Passenger Service Agent, Ramp Supervisor, Load Controller, Lead Agent, and Account Supervisor positions; has taken 9 native programs throughout the Austrian Airways North American Station Coaching Program and two in Vienna; and is the second Load Controller to have been licensed on the native degree. In his private life, he had a son, earned his Non-public Pilot License, and accomplished his Bachelor of Science diploma in aviation.

“David achieved most of the identical issues: he carried out Passenger Service, Baggage Providers, Ramp Supervision, and Load Management features; took six native programs and one in Vienna; was the third domestically licensed Load Controller; and likewise had a son.

“Josue, the fourth domestically licensed Load Controller, carried out Passenger Service, Ramp Supervision, and Load Management features; took seven native programs and one in Vienna; and later accomplished load sheets for Saudi Arabian Airways and Turkish Airways.

“Omar, who joined the Austrian Airways account from Royal Air Maroc, was the Baggage Providers/Misplaced and Discovered Lead Agent and ran an exemplary division, establishing procedures, organizing, coaching Whaid and Steven, and even structuring different North American Baggage Providers departments. Due to his efforts and contributions, JFK received an award for its enchancment.

“Omi and Berqui, having each commenced their careers with Swissport in Passenger Service, had been equally promoted to Lead Brokers of the Austrian Airways account. They intermittently accomplished their college diploma research, and Omi even pursued a minor in aviation. Each developed into stunning women.

“Damian, having spent greater than half a decade with Swissport-Austrian Airways, carried out Passenger Verify-in, Arrivals, Flight Controller, and Departure Gate features, however Austrian Airways was greater than only a ‘job’ for him: it was his household, his pals, his laughs, his holidays, and his annual ski journey holidays to the Poconos. For him, it was ‘dwelling.’ In actual fact, he twice ran away from dwelling, to different airline accounts, throughout his five-year tenure, and twice he got here again.

“Passenger Service and Ramp Supervision contributions had been additionally made by everybody else, together with Syed, Kewal, Lorena, Cristina, Monica, Pinky, Madaive, Wendy, and Jean.

“Due to all of you, JFK could be credited with quite a few strengths, accomplishments, and successes.

“And for those who assume I forgot Mike, assume once more. He’s singularly liable for cultivating the environment and orchestrating the steps that allowed each one in all these strengths and accomplishments to have been made right here. For those who assume he’s like most station managers, you higher assume once more. He’s a uncommon breed certainly!

“My very own accomplishments could be mirrored by the quite a few roles I performed right here: supervisor, director, mentor, psychologist, instructor, author, journey agent, entertainer, jokester, recipe creator, alternate identify supplier, and even Omi’s father.

“All through our joint historical past, there was by no means any barrier between the 2 teams, only a seamless interface between Austrian Airways and Swissport-in different phrases, humanity connecting with humanity, no matter which firm they labored for.

“I may cite the financial reasons–although nobody would agree with them–why this needed to finish right now. But when it had not been for them, it will have ended anyway, a method or one other. Do I say this as a result of I do know of some deep, darkish secret from Vienna? No, I say it as a result of, as beforehand talked about, nothing is everlasting on this bodily world, and it prepares us, in some small method, for the sometimes-difficult job of transferring to the subsequent stage of our improvement. After we are completed with that section, we should go away it behind. Sometime, after we ‘stroll’ all of the developmental paths of our lives right here, we are going to go away all of them behind.

“At this time might function one small preparation for that inevitability. However, paradoxically, that’s after we will regain the bond we had been compelled to interrupt right now. That’s after we will see one another, on a regular basis, when there are not any days left down right here.

“I have no idea if we are going to stroll the identical path once more on this existence. However I do know that, no matter paths you do stroll, for those who stroll them properly, and accurately, and ethically, that each one of them will result in the identical destination-up there.

“Your tears are tears of conversion–an try and ‘convert again’ these empty pockets you’ll assuredly really feel whenever you go away right here tonight–as you ‘disconnect’ from everybody, as a result of, you see, this started as a venue the place we might work collectively, but it surely ended up one the place we performed collectively, and laughed collectively, and cried together-in different phrases, we quickly re-merged into the ‘oneness’ from which all of us got here.

“And now comes the tough part–leaving behind what we created and making a big life change. Change is one thing everybody resists, but it’s truly the mechanism by which we’re moved to the subsequent stage of our developmental paths.

“At this time, I would like you to take three issues with you.

“First, I would like you to take all of your professional-level studying experiences with you, whether or not they concern check-in or load management or ticketing.

“Second, I would like you to take your nice reminiscences with you. For every of you, they are going to be completely different. They could be a joke, a humorous identify, a look, the cheese supplied by Rocio, the Secret Santas at Christmas, the ski journeys, or the pumpkin soup served throughout Thanksgiving. No matter they’re, cherish them. And bear in mind, nobody can take them away from you.

“And at last, I would like you to take with you the ‘larger image’ lesson that was taught here-namely, that, whenever you give to others what you your self have been given, whether or not you’re requested to or not and whether or not you’re paid to or not, {that a} concord outcomes, and that you’re not solely part of that concord, however the partial creator of it.

“And now, because the clock quickly consumes our remaining hours collectively, the final order of enterprise is to thank every and everybody of you on your time, efforts, contributions, concepts, jokes, and laughs-your presence. And most of all, I thanks for letting me lead you.

“Every one in all you is one small cause why, collectively, we had been one large success.

“I want you that very same diploma of success as you allow right here right now, as you write the subsequent chapter of your lives and comply with the subsequent a part of your developmental path.

“Till we see one another again-and we are going to… “

In the course of the speech, it was tough to gauge which sound was louder: the uncontrollable sobs or the stark silence.

Cameras, flashing all through the day on the check-in counter, captured the ultimate closing of the plane door–a image of a waving flight attendant, a second of Austrian Airways’ JFK historical past frozen in time and perpetually preserved.

Miserable the button on my radio, I introduced, “The final Austrian-Swissport 088 is off the blocks at 42 previous the hour,” or 13 minutes forward of schedule with 30 enterprise and 176 economic system class passengers on board.

And with the final flight, even Kewal was granted his long-awaited want: he lastly ramped the plane, with Cristina.

Amid pc wire disconnections, emptying cabinets, and furnishings motion within the office–a piece by piece dismantling of our seven-year “dwelling”–a post-departure and post-station social gathering ensued, highlighted by visits of greater than a dozen prior Austrian Airways and Swissport workers who felt compelled to return “dwelling” one final time, and ended with the inevitable tears and the draining emotionalization generated by each remaining “goodbye” as they left-that is, with each remaining disconnection.

Someway appropriately, I accompanied Annie to the parking zone. We had been the primary to work for Austrian Airways, tracing our respective roots to 1989 and 1994, and we had been the final to depart.

“For God’s sake,” Annie exclaimed, “I’ve identified you for 16½ years,” as tears preceded a remaining hug.

Driving away from the airport that night time, I felt probably the most overwhelming sense of vacancy I had ever skilled in my life.

III

The ultimate nail had been hammered into Austrian Airline’s North American operation, sealing its destiny. JFK was the third and final station to have been ceded to Lufthansa, after Toronto and Washington, and its reservations division, Whitestone headquarters, and cargo dealing with had additionally been misplaced within the course of.

In November, Swissport, its seven-year floor handler, handed the torch to Lufthansa, and station JFK, each North America’s first and final, closed its doorways to autonomous dealing with after 21 years.

My vacancy, now coupled with numbness, continued the next morning.

Ecaterina, representing the final thread to the now-closed play, stopped by to select up some private belongings, however as I escorted her to the escalator, I noticed her take one final look on the ticket counter that had served as her day by day “dwelling” for the previous three years. Watching her recede, I noticed her type the phrase “goodbye” on her lips, however she refused to match it with the sound that might have finalized its actuality.

The final transfer was my own–the relocation to one in all two obligation supervisor desks within the Lufthansa workplace. How lengthy I’d sit there and would I ever equate these new environment with the phrase “dwelling” had been questions that filtered by my thoughts.

Now not in uniform, each I and the opposite Austrian Responsibility Supervisor wore enterprise apparel and had been now liable for the day by day operation of 5 Air China, Austrian Airways, and Lufthansa flights.

Untethered to the household I had identified, I felt displaced, as if I not belonged there. Then once more, there was little “Austrian Airways” left to which to belong. Infiltrated with emotions of guilt, I puzzled why I had survived the transition whereas most of my colleagues had not.

Throughout passenger check-in, which had been relocated from aisle H to aisle G, I stole a look on the former Austrian Airways ticket counter. It solely revealed emptiness-no crimson uniforms, no Annie, no Sidonie, no Jenner, no Ecaterina, no Susanna-and two keyboards their fingers would by no means once more contact.

The identical Austrian 767-300, registered OE-LAX, departed from the identical gate that day because it had the earlier one, however, now dealt with by brokers I used to be solely acquainted with and who wore blue Lufthansa uniforms, it appeared completely different and one way or the other far faraway from the one I had at all times identified. What a distinction a day could make.

I considered the 4 no-longer current Ticket Brokers who had been laid off and their empty chairs. Six months from now, I felt, mine could be one in all them. (It was.)

IV

The morning of December 31 revealed a reworked world. The bottom was coated with a light-weight blanket of snow and the timber, like an limitless line of brown sculptures, appeared coated in white sugar.

Re-entering the now-former Austrian Airways workplace, I walked by it, permitting the previous to replay within the present-in my thoughts.

I appeared on the slim room the place the Baggage Providers Division had been situated and the numerous, typically multi-faceted briefings had occurred, earlier than transferring into the primary workplace.

Passing the realm the place a desk extension had as soon as stood, I considered the lots of of cockpit crew briefings that had been held there and the makeshift “buffet” that it had develop into throughout holidays, displaying birthday muffins and Thanksgiving dishes.

Eyeing the ground in entrance of what had been the load management desk, I may simply detect the place the small Christmas tree had been yearly positioned, a minimum of in my creativeness.

Visualizing the chair the place David, one of many three load controllers, sat, I swore his day by day query reverberated in my thoughts.

“Robert, are we closed but,” he would ask, in anticipation of sending the load sheet?

Sure, David, I answered, completely.

Stark and silent, abandoned and devoid, the Austrian Airways workplace now appeared like a dull stage the place the previous seven years had performed out. However the desks had been gone. A cupboard door, nonetheless ajar, revealed an empty shelf. A bit of tape was nonetheless caught to the wall, however no matter had been affixed to it had apparently way back relinquished its grip. And an previous boarding go resting on the ground appeared to bear the collective shoe prints of the numerous lots of who had labored there.

Someplace, on the stroke of midnight, somebody clinked glasses of champagne, amidst one other dusting of snow, to ring within the New Yr, however nobody was current to listen to them. The soul that was Austrian Airways had departed the station.

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