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Holiday travels & tribulations: Unique website records airline travel stories

Loyola press release - November 19, 2012

With Christmas just around the corner, millions are taking to the skies in the busiest travel season of the year. Airport delays, lost baggage and other airline travel debacles are something Loyola University New Orleans English professors Chris Schaberg, Ph.D., and Mark Yakich, Ph.D., know all about. In fact, the pair’s Airplanereading.org is a clearinghouse of sorts for some of the most interesting—and diverse—airline travel stories found anywhere. In just over a year, the website has garnered more than 400 submitted essays detailing travel stories written by everyone from flight attendants to leisure travelers.

One essay on the website details author Arthur Plotnik’s account of a 1979 flight unwittingly carrying a live bomb shipped by Theodore Kaczynski in “Surviving the Unabomber.” There are also fun accounts of flying like an essay from novelist Pam Houston in “Why I Love to Fly.” Houston is coming to Loyola April 9, 2013 as a guest lecturer.

Airplanereading.org is open to submissions and has received positive reviews and achieved a national following from writers and travelers alike. The two professors will turn the best pieces on the website into a book pending release next year, called “The Airplane Reader.”

The message? If you’re stuck on the tarmac in this holiday season’s delays, use that time to record your experience and send it to Airplanereading.org.

Schaberg, who used to be an airline baggage handler, also recently published “The Textual Life of Airports: Reading the Culture of Flight.” The book is an academic analysis of airports as they are interpreted in a wide range of literary and cultural contexts. Schaberg tracks airport stories in American literature, as well as in a range of films, airport art and magazine illustrations. Schaberg is currently at work on a sequel to his first airport book.

Schaberg and Yakich’s book “Checking In/Checking Out,” is a two-sided tale of flying. On one side, the book relates behind-the-scenes stories of Schaberg, a former employee of United Airlines at the Gallatin Field Airport outside Bozeman, Montana. The other side tells the story of Yakich’s lifelong efforts to cure a fear of flying. Yakich is working on a new collection of poems called "Poetry for Planes."

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