Small Planes and Frequent Delays Don’t Cool Ardor for Flying

Bill Malkasian, vice president for political strategic planning at the National Association of Realtors, at Huntington Beach, Calif.

I’VE been with real estate trade associations for about 40 years. But it’s really only the last four years, after joining the National Association of Realtors, that my business travel has really expanded. The association is based in Washington, but I live in Madison, Wis. What I do is help run a political education program called the Realtor Party, and I work directly with more than 1,400 local and state Realtor Association chapters in every state.

My travel usually takes me to state capitals as that’s where the state associations have their offices, or I have to go to Washington for national meetings. Flying from my home in Madison to anywhere is either through Detroit, Minneapolis or mostly Chicago. Most of my business travel life is spent at O’Hare, which means a lot of delays.

I have learned to roll with things, mostly because I am having the time of my life.

I love flying. I love business travel. I’m not the guy who goes to fancy or exotic places on huge planes. I fly on small planes with two seats on each side, or two seats on one side and one seat on the other.

I’ve had every delay possible. The strangest was when I got on the plane in Madison and had to fly to Chicago and then on to Washington. I was really excited about maybe getting a cup of coffee, but I couldn’t. Frozen water lines were causing an issue. I know all about cold weather since I live in Wisconsin, but this past winter was ridiculous and made travel even more difficult.


I don’t have much to do to amuse myself on these short hops so I’ve taken to watching people struggle to put their carry-ons in the overhead bins. I know these people are told their bags won’t fit into the overheads and they should put them in cargo. No one wants to do that because they have to wait for their bags to be offloaded. I have seen seemingly competent grown men and women turn into lunatics as they try to shove their bags into those tiny spaces.

My job allows me to see parts of the United States many people will never visit. But they should. I was just in Pierre, S.D. I went there for a Realtor conference and truly didn’t know what to expect. It was an amazing experience, especially since we were meeting with state officials. People think of politics as being rough-and-tumble, but these people could not have been more welcoming. The South Dakota Realtors Association had a dinner that evening, and many legislative officials showed up. It was really wonderful, and that’s part of the joy of business travel, getting to meet a lot of different and really nice people.

I am not the most experienced of travelers, but I’m getting to know the ropes. On Dec. 30, 2013, I did something I never thought I would actually do, which is pay out-of-pocket for a same-day, round-trip flight from Madison to Chicago to make sure I could keep my preferred flight status.

Several of us on that 4:50 p.m. flight out of Madison started chatting, and we found out we were all flying to Chicago for the same reason. Once we landed at O’Hare, we had dinner and drinks together to pass the time.

When we got off the plane back in Wisconsin later that evening, we all high-fived one another and went our separate ways. Now that might not sound glamorous to people who go to Europe every week for business, but for me, it was the most fun I’ve ever had flying.

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