Regarding “Perks of the Job: You Can Spread Your Wings Wide,” Fly Guy, by Elliott Hester, Jan. 20: The sentence “The first is free flying” calls for further elaboration. The reality is that pleasure travel for airline employees and immediate family is not that free or simple.
Although not as costly as a full-fare ticket, such travel still incurs service charges, taxes and fees based upon employer, destination, cabin and even years of employment. This kind of passenger is designated “SA” for space available, because boarding is based on the presence of an empty seat (which doesn’t necessarily guarantee a meal option).
International pleasure travel incurs additional costs, and again, boarding is based on that empty seat.
Finally, the cost of a pass for extended family or friends, which can sometimes match or even exceed a confirmed seat fare, is deducted from the employee’s paycheck once the flier boards, if there is an empty seat.
For the last several years, I have redeemed credit-card miles earned with a particular airline to fly our family home because my husband’s employer’s flights were overbooked to various hubs we sought to connect through as SA passengers.
Even my in-laws drive across the country instead of flying to visit us because of too many frustrations as SA passengers.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Regarding “Learning Another Language Is So Fun It’s Embarrassing,” On the Spot, by Catharine Hamm, Jan. 27: Thank you for the great article about language learning. I have been studying Spanish for more than 15 years, using each of the tips Hamm recommends. I can’t suggest enough immersion programs in Mexico and finding local groups to help practice in person. You can know a lot of vocabulary, but without one-on-one conversation, it is useless.
I belong to a Spanish meetup and speak weekly on Skype with a man in Spain, constantly striving to improve my second language. I wish I had a peso for every person who has told me, “Oh, I want to learn Spanish.” The problem is that they aren’t willing to do what it takes.
After living in L.A. for 20 years, I had an epiphany as I handed my parking ticket to the Spanish-speaking attendant I had previously ignored. I suddenly realized there was an entire culture I knew nothing about.
I decided to learn Spanish at Berlitz, as its method resonated with my particular mind-set. My life (and my brain) expanded as I enthusiastically gabbed with people who overlooked my lack of grammar and limited vocabulary, both in L.A. and abroad.
Now that I am 76, the French I learned in college mixes with my Spanish and English. My sentences may be garbled, but my enthusiasm for communication and my ongoing new experiences continue to override my embarrassment.
Ruth Kramer Ziony