SFO–TPE, or 777s and a Flat World

Saturday I attended a ceremony to send off United Airlines’ inaugural flight from San Francisco to Taipei. It was a party! United decorated the boarding area with paper lanterns and served dim sum and Chinese-style coffee, while brightly costumed characters circulated. United and airport brass spoke, shook hands and maximized photo ops.

Introducing a route like SFO-TPE is more than a marketing play: It’s an economic and political event. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee spoke and, with seemingly genuine affection, reminded the audience that Taipei and San Francisco are sister cities. The two cities’ and nations’ economies will be greased by expanded air service between them, he said. (SFO-TPE was already served by EVA Air, which is based in Taiwan, China Airlines, US Airways/American and Delta.)

That day, the plane was full, and passengers ranged from business celebrities to just plain folks on vacation (or so I surmise). Mayor Lee planned to travel on the flight but had to back out when he came down with a cold: doctor’s orders. No doubt many passengers were unaware this was an inaugural flight until they arrived at the gate party.

I too often take for granted the fact that air travel fuels our international economy. This event reminded me that the world would not be flat if it weren’t for hundreds of 777s cruising the heavens every day.

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