Yesterday when I wrote about United’s men-only flights on key business routes, GringoLoco commented,
Sounds like a story PremEx would know and tell… great blast from the past, Gary.
I decided to pull another blast from the past, a story I wrote about a couple of years ago that in fact comes from PremEx.
Most readers won’t know who he is, of course. But Mark Love is the person I learned the most from about travel, while in my formative time in business travel fifteen years ago. I learned how to think about the people I was dealing with along the way. Some might call it social engineering rather than application of the rules, but I prefer to think of it as simply dealing with the gate agents, hotel clerks, and phone agents as people with their own motivations.
The story I have in mind is the bizarre tunnel that connects United’s B and C concourses at Chicago O’Hare. People frequently mention that it “feels like Disney.” And indeed it does.
So I went and found the story.
Most folks [love “The Tunnel”] although some repeat customers do often say it can become irritating after a while. Of course the intention was to add beauty and distraction to the otherwise boring and utilitarian nature of such a loooong underground passageway. In this I think it succeeds, but not as much as it might have. Why? Because I happen to know a bit about how this little project was originally intended and designed.
You’ll notice those lighted panels on both sides of the tunnel? Those are “Band-Aids” of a sort. They cover-up what was never completed. You see, at the time of it’s design, United was in talks with Disney about becoming the new Corporate Alliance “Official Airline of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.” United put Jahn in touch with Disney’s Imagineering division and they jointly planned on creating some nice 3 dimensional “vignettes” of scenes of various cities that United flew to, in all these “windows” on the sides. Similar to what some might remember from the old “Delta’s Dream Flight” attraction in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Part of this collaboration was the creation and design of the neon rainbow transition sculpture running the length of the corridor, by noted neon sculpture/artist Michael Hayden of California, who had worked on a similar rainbow piece for Disney…a popular curving rainbow tunnel…at the “Image Works” section of the Imagination Pavilion at Disney World’s Epcot, that was sponsored by Kodak (colors=Kodak=natch).
Well, the Disney marketing partnership just didn’t work out, and money got a little tight with cost overruns on other parts of the project, so snip, snip…cheap little plastic color backlit panels now cover what might have been. But Hayden’s wonderful rainbow neon artwork remained (titled “The Sky’s The Limit” if anyone cares), and an “otherworldly” original composition of Rhapsody In Blue was created by composer William Kraft, and synchronized by computer with the color changes of the neon, for the final effect, which both artists share credit for.
…Today it accomplishes most of what it set out to do: Provide some minor distraction for that long, long 2 minute transition between terminals. If you’re thinking about it, like it or not…it’s doing it’s job!
The system was deliberately designed to be easily reprogrammed for different music and lighting effects. I guess if they get back into the black someday, they should consider dusting-off the control panel, commissioning some new music, and changing the lighting/synchronization on occasion…so it’s not quite so “stagnant” an experience for repeat visitors.
Hopefully a story that United frequent flyers, who may not have been familiar with the background, can enjoy.
[…] The Gershwin piece wasn’t just used on board and in commercials but also a version was recorded for the ‘trippy tunnel’ connecting United concourses at Chicago O…. […]