Former President Carter, Walking Through Coach Greeting Passengers On Delta Air Lines

With former President Carter in hospice care, expected to pass away shortly, he’s most notable for his humanity. He was elected President in the aftermath of President Nixon’s resignation in disgrace. And he became most well known for his post-Presidency years. Rather than retiring from the spotlight, or focusing on lucrative business efforts, he became known for diplomacy and humanitarian causes.

At the same time, Carter was a better President than many give him credit for. While he won only one term, he left a significant legislative legacy including airline deregulation, and deregulation of railroads, trucking and energy. He nominated Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and it was Volcker who was most responsible for taming inflation in the United States.

These moves set the stage for U.S. prosperity in the 1980s, though they were aided by the bipartisan Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 at the start of the Reagan administration which lowered rates and broadened the tax base (it passed 89-11 in the Senate).

What I will always remember President Carter for is this video of the former President walking through economy on Delta Air Lines in 2017, taking the time to greet everyone on board.

The effort was hardly a one-off, either, though if you were a United Airlines or American flyer you probably didn’t know it. The former Georgia governor was a regular on Delta Air Lines and its partners.

Carter didn’t just help to give us airline deregulation, which brought lower fares and democratized travel, but also the deregulation of beer. One of his later acts was the 1979 change to permit the same of malt, hops, and yeast to home brewers for the first time since prohibition. That change led not just to home brewing but led to the development of micro beweries, craft beer festivals, and a culture that supported better beer overall brew pubs.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Very interesting post! I just remember him as a goofy peanut farmer but considering all the crap presidents we’ve had before and after him, and after reading your summary of some of his accomplishments, he seems like one of the better ones. Actually a nice tribute to him and his personality. Okay now prepare to be lambasted by the right for everything you wrote about him.

  2. Yes I was on such a flight. While we were sitting at the gate in Atlanta, a corvette pulled up and we were all wondering what that was about. Next thing we know, Jimmy Carter was walking down the aisle w secret service, he sat in the bulkhead seats in coach. After the flight took off, exactly as you say, he walked down the entire aisle of the plane, shaking hands with anyone. I remember one elderly woman shook his hand and then asked him, “and, who are you?”

  3. I consider myself very conservative, but there can be
    no doubt that President Carter
    Is a kind and decent man.
    A life well lived, we should all strive to be more like him personally.

  4. far better moral leader (one of the best that has graced the White House) than an economic leader even with deregulation of airlines
    inextricably linked to Georgia alongside Delta and helped Delta get its first route to Europe – Gatwick

  5. Mr. Carter is a nice man, no doubt, but his naivete lead to some really bad outcomes for our country. When he was Governor of Georgia, he and my Grandfather taught Sunday school together at the same church. I met Mr. Carter numerous times as a result. Years later, he was grand marshal of the 4th Of July Parade and I was a volunteer working with the TV coverage. When he pulled up to the reviewing stand, I was introduced to him. “Your XXX’s grandson! I remember him bringing you to Sunday school. Rosalynn and I were sorry to hear that he passed away.” “Thank you, Mr. President.” I know he enjoyed teaching with you.” His memory of those events blew me away. His getting Arafat and Begin to shake hands was monumental. However, those of us old enough to remember the gas shortages caused by his policies, the overrunning of our embassy in Tehran, and the failed rescue attempt can see a repeat of this trend right now. Whether one is a Democrat, Republican or a Libertarian, this country should always be about “One nation, under God with liberty and justice for all”. I wish him peace and tranquility in the final stages of his life.

  6. Those holding this great man up as a “terrible president” have bought into a 45-year-old, myopically absolutist campaign slogan, ignoring the problems that exist in every presidency.

    If we racked up, with an honest eye, his failures, controversies, and shortcomings against all other post-war presidents and his administration would come out well towards the top.

  7. @ Gary — Saw him teach Sunday school several years ago and met him and Rosalynn. Such great people. The world needs more like them. It will be heartbreaking when he passes.

  8. He is such a good and decent person – of which we could use many more. Also his work with Habitat for Humanity has been an outstanding example of what people with influence could do with that. Losing him is a loss for our whole country.

  9. Maybe our last morally decent president. Regarding the Iran situation…I went through there in 1973 taking buses and trains from Luxembourg to Nepal. Traveled off the usual route (Ankara-Tehran-Kabul) to see southeastern Iran and swung around through Baghdad before heading on towards India too. The one big thing I took from that whole area was that the Shah was in real trouble and fighting to keep his throne. It was quite obvious by how many pictures of him there were all over the place. (I really wasn’t aware of how the CIA had installed him in 1953, but the people sure hadn’t forgotten.)

    Years later when the Iranian Revolution occurred Carter seemed to be caught flatfooted. But some time after that I was on an airliner and got to talking with the man in the other seat. It turned out he was a Foreign Service officer who had been in Tehran. When I asked why the president didn’t know what was so obvious, he said, “We knew but didn’t tell him. We learned from China not to give bad news or we would get blamed for what was happening.”

    Take that story as you will, I cannot prove any of it. It is interesting though that the progressive commentator Thom Hartmann alleges that Reagan and Bush made a deal with the Iranians to hold the hostages until Carter lost (just as Nixon and Kissinger promised the North Vietnamese a better deal if they held off and insured Humphrey’s defeat, and there is a tape of LBJ discussing that).

    Carter wasn’t perfect. Living in South Dakota at the time the 55 mph national speed limit drove us crazy. But he saw the need for energy conservation and alternative sources far better than most people. (His successor immediately took the solar panels off the White House, along with tripling the national debt and starting our national decline in so many ways.) RIP Jimmy, and thanks for all you did before, during and after your term of service.

  10. I actually think his moral perspective was way off.
    I’m assuming this has something to do with his religious beliefes in some way, but when you cant tell right from wrong, good vs evil, and everything and everyone just needs to “think peace” – it’s harmful coming from the strongest person in the world.
    I remember how Caucescu and his wife made fun of him calling him “the peanut farmer”, while pretending to be cooperating with his admin behind the scenes.

  11. @Dude26–while Ceausescu and his wife were executed for genocide (more than 60K victims) in 1989, President Carter went on to be the oldest president in U.S. history. I think the peanut farmer got the last laugh! Such a good and decent human being, along with his wife.

  12. Not being a Swiss citizen and resident, Carter was president in my teenage years. Too young to really judge him as a President, what I do remember, is him being responsible for the deregulation of the airline industry (1978?), which in my view was a catastrophy and has led to the terrible situation we have today.

  13. I met President Carter in 2016 at a small charitable concert and dinner I helped organize in Americus Georgia. There were probably 20 donors + President Carter + 3-4 people organizers + the artist, 25 in all.

    President Carter couldn’t have been more gracious. He shook everyone’s hand and talked to every single person in the room. He got his own dinner standing in line behind the donors. No airs at all.

    I spent a couple of hours standing right behind him during the concert to help him if needed (he didn’t need any help). I couldn’t believe I was a couple of feet away with no security (secret service stood outside). He was full of life and seemed to enjoy himself.

    I have heard conflicting things about his policies as President. But I came away from the event impressed by his decency and eagerness to talk to people. His secret service entourage was very small and easy going. I will remember the experience of meeting him until the day I die.

  14. I’ve had the honor of meeting him a couple of times in the community, having lived next to the Carter Center for years, and once sat across the aisle from him on an America West flight from Phoenix to SoCal. He’s done some great works in his life.

    One note regarding Airline Deregulation: President Carter may have signed it and appointed Alfred Kahn to sunset the CAB, but the origins of the movement and pushing the act forward came from staff of Sen Teddy Kennedy who was looking for something to, even years after the fact, get his name associated with something other than his brothers or a young lady dead in a submerged car.

  15. President Carter is all class. Such a humble human being and everyone I know who has met him has said the same thing as others here. Of the remaining former presidents, there are two from opposing parties who I would say are humble, respectful and at least somewhat classy people. Of the other two from opposing parties, one is questionable at best, and the other could not buy class even if (though) he still tries.

    Yes, President Carter dropped the ball on Iran, but he mostly accepted blame even though it was not totally his fault. For the record, that was a coup in a country halfway across the world. It did not happen here in the USA….

    I don’t think the inflation was all his fault and he did take steps that reduced it later. I agree with Scudder. Carter gets way too bad of a rap.

  16. In 1941 my Dad was at Cornell in Navy officer training when a position opened at Georgia Tech and he was transferred down there. The reason I bring this up is the position that opened was because a young Jimmy Carter was leaving the program for the Coast Guard and my Dad replaced him. My Dad went to fight in the South Pacific, a successful engineering carrier including help to rebuild Europe’s manufacturing during the Marshall Plan. He too loved to sing and give back to his community after he retired. He died last year in hospice care after a brief illness at the age of 97. My heart goes out to the Carter family and know that our Dads will forever have a connection.

  17. @whitmire

    Read the US Constitution. Show me where god is mentioned. Read the first amendment. It specifically states that government neither create nor favor a religion. If you’re truly a patriot, you’d follow this.

  18. Personal opinion, he deregulated airlines to sell peanuts and promote upstart Southwest. His moves almost destroyed the transportation industry.
    Last time I flew was on Eastern in 1982. Airlines I loved? OZARK, NORTH CENTRAL, FRONTIER, UNITED and DELTA.

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