Ask Steve

Hello! My name is Steven Venables.

When I started in the travel industry 40 years ago, everything was a little more formal. In fact, the airline I first worked for, United, required us to wear military-like uniforms and use only our last names when introducing ourselves to passengers or answering the telephone. I was “Mr. Venables.”

But people would often slaughter my name, calling me Mr. Vegetables, Mr. Animals or worse. So, with permission, I assumed a false but easier-to-pronounce last name and became known as Mr. Vernon — that is, until some bright guy came up with the slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies of United.” Then, to prove we were really friendly, or at least friendlier than other airlines, we were told to trade in our old uniforms for a softer, civilian-style one and to each use only our first name.

That “Friendlier” slogan lasted United for years, perhaps they still use it, and I always thought it was a great idea. Being friendly is good, and I’m happy to be called by my first name, since no one ever slaughters it. Too common. Therefore, just call me Steve.

Why on Earth would you want to bother? Well, with 40 years of travel industry experience, four with United and 36 as a professional travel agent, I’ve accumulated a little travel knowledge, you might say. And with the start of this new column in ITN, I’m willing to share it, answering your travel questions and concerns and maybe even solving predicaments, provided they’re general enough and interesting enough for your fellow readers to enjoy learning about also. So let’s have some fun.

Yours in travel,