It was supposed to be a confidential meeting, but of course the (very messy) details came out. Last month, the CEOs of American and United Airlines met in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump and several of his advisors. Delta CEO Ed Bastian was very much conspicuous by his absence. Now he's finally explained why he wasn't there. He was on vacation with his family.

The purpose of the meeting was for the largest U.S. carriers to ask for action in response to what they say are unfair competitive practices by Middle Eastern airlines on the lucrative routes between the U.S. and Europe. United, American, and Delta had been lobbying the White House for this meeting for a long time, finally capturing Trump's attention with a TV ad aimed specifically at him on Fox & Friends, which he apparently never misses.

Also at the meeting were the CEOs of JetBlue, Atlas Air, and FedEx, all of which benefit from the Open Skies agreement, which is the focus of the larger carriers' complaints. Qatar Airlines CEO Akbar al Baker was there as well. The conversation quickly devolved into a confrontation between those who wanted the U.S. to leave the agreement and those who wanted to keep honoring it. But Trump reportedly kept coming back to one theme--his anger at Bastian's absence. "There was a lot of yelling," one person who was there told NBC News.

At the time, Delta representatives would only say that Bastian had previously scheduled international travel that he could not change. Now Bastian, via a video message to Delta's 86,000 employees, has provided a fuller answer: He was on vacation with his family. As he explained in the video:

"Unfortunately that meeting was set up at the very last minute as I was heading out of the country with my family on a long scheduled one week vacation. That would have caused me to cancel the vacation with my family. My family makes a lot of sacrifices with Delta, I ask them to do a lot of things, I wasn't about ready to ask them to cancel a long scheduled vacation."

He went on to say that he had told the White House he could make any other week work except that one, but they insisted on scheduling the meeting during his vacation week. 

Now, it's impossible for most of us to know whether Bastian was being sincere in his message, or if there was another reason he preferred not to meet with the president. Either way, by citing a family vacation, he made a very important point--one that likely wasn't lost on the company's employees. Vacations aren't a luxury. They are a commitment you make to your family and yourself to step away from work for a period of time, and that's a commitment we should all keep.

Research shows that skipping vacations is destructive to your relationships and your health and can even shorten your life. It can also make you worse at your job as you give up the creativity and productivity boost that comes from taking time away from work.

If you haven't yet taken a vacation this summer, you should plan one right away. And once you do have a plan in place, don't let anything at work derail it. After all, if Bastian's family vacation can take precedence over a meeting with the president, yours can take precedence over any work emergency or opportunity that might come up.

Published on: Aug 6, 2019
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