Greetings all,

A magical time of year is nearly upon us. As the last leaves fall from the trees, it is time to remember the True Meaning of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is not a time to give thanks.

Thanksgiving is a time to get bumped.

This year brings substantial travel challenges. Rapid, wrenching changes are being thrust upon both the traveling public and a battered airline industry. The combination of slumped travel demand, a soft economy, new security measures, and cutthroat fare wars have turned the traveler's world upside down. As a result, airlines are less generous than they used to be. These are the days of deflation of the travel vouchers, with airlines less eager to roll the red carpet out for those who wait out the fullest flights. And between the march of technology and the tightening of booking policy, airlines are overbooking less than ever before.

But out of challenge and adversity comes determination and experience. You can still pick the peak of the travel days: Black Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. On those unendingly busy days, the calls for free travel will ring the halls of the nation's terminals. Sure, you must show up earlier than early now. You need to run, not walk, to the podium at first chance to bolster your chances of becoming First Choice Volunteer. But the rewards, when they come, will be well earned. And you will know that if you can make it as a bumpee bathed in a bonanza of free travel this Thanksgiving, then you can make it in any year.

As for me, I remain in an unhealthy state of denial. America West, the everlasting kingpin of oversales, the jammingest of jampacked holiday airplanes, beckons me back for a new season of Phoenix free flight frolicking fun. But I am too busy and tired--no, let's be honest, too lazy and slothful--to do it right. I will sit meekly on a Southwest Airlines nonstop flight, traveling merely on the quiet Thanksgiving Day itself, with the simple goal of departure and arrival. I may have lost my way as a faithful bumpee, but where there are Thanksgivings future, there is always hope.

..robert