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First-class welcome home for our returning troops
Frequent flyer starts a trend by giving up his seat
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WHEN he went on his frequent business trips, Mike Bosaczyk used to care deeply about whether he flew in a first-class seat.
“There’s nothing like it,” he said. “You’re first on, first off. There’s always room in the overhead storage, so you don’t have to check your bag. It makes the trip easier.”
But after a chance encounter with a U.S. soldier returning home from Iraq, Bosaczyk doesn’t give a crap about that stuff anymore.
And he doesn’t want you to give a crap about it, either. He has started a campaign to get first-class flyers to trade their seats for the coach ones held by troops on the same flight.
Nothing, he said, makes him feel more warm and fuzzy about flying than squeezing into coach so that a serviceman can luxuriate in what would have been Bosaczyk’s capacious berth at the front of the plane.
“It’s the best feeling,” says Bosaczyk, 45, whose job selling healthcare-information systems for McKesson Technologies will require him to fly hundreds of thousands of miles this year.
“It makes the whole plane happy. I even got applauded.”
Not that he went looking for cheers. He just wanted to do something nice for a young sergeant he’d befriended at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where both were waiting for a Boston flight.
Hartsfield, the country’s busiest passenger airport, is forever crawling with troops heading to all points. Bosaczyk, an amiable guy, always chats them up.
“They really want to talk,” he says. “They tell you where they’ve been. They show you pictures of family.”
The Boston-bound soldier said he planned to order a rum-and-coke as soon as he boarded the plane, to ease his flying jitters.
“I said, ‘With all you’ve been through in Iraq, you’re afraid to fly?’ ” Bosaczyk laughed. “He said, ‘Yeah, can you believe it?’ “
Bosaczyk, whose frequent flying often results in ticket upgrades, was settling into his first-class seat when the soldier inched past him into coach.
“He gave me a thumb’s-up sign,” said Bosaczyk, “and out of the blue, I thought, ‘I’m gonna give him my seat.’ “
He asked the flight attendant to locate the soldier, who was overjoyed by Bosaczyk’s offer.
“He was grinning from ear to ear,” said Bosaczyk. “I thought, ‘Enjoy the rum-and-cokes, buddy. You deserve them.’ “
Giving up his first-class seat made Bosaczyk feel so happy, he didn’t even mind the long wait at the end of the flight to disembark.
“When you travel as much as I do, if you’re stuck back in row 20 on a full plane, you go nuts with the waiting,” he said.
But Bosaczyk was so tickled by his act of goodwill, he repeated it on his next flight, which was, again, more than sprinkled with soldiers. This time, two other first-class flyers traded seats, too.
“I think I shamed them into it,” he chuckled.
Later, the pilot announced that some “special guests” — soldiers returning home — were on board and asked all to let them disembark first, so they could greet their eager families.
The cabin erupted in cheers.
Then the flight attendant announced, “And let’s applaud the three gentlemen who gave up their first-class seats for them!”
“That was pretty cool,” said Bosaczyk.
Since then, Bosaczyk has been talking up this guerrilla-gratitude concept among colleagues and anyone who’ll listen at the airports he frequents. “They think it’s a great idea,” he said. “There’s an immediacy to it, and it makes you feel good.”
The gesture also reminds Bosaczyk, who served three-plus years in the Marine reserves, how his own military career could’ve gone far differently.
“I enlisted during the Iran hostage crisis; everyone has their own motivations for signing up,” he said. “Iran was mine. It was luck that I never saw combat.”
So to all travelers with first-class-travel status, I challenge you to follow Bosaczyk’s generous lead. Repeat after me:
“No soldiers in coach!”
You’ll be so busy feeling the love, you may not even notice, or care, when the airline pretzels are stale.
Polaneczky is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.