United Airlines: Books on the Fly

In March 2018, Etruscan Press and Wilkes University joined United Airlines Books on the Fly, an outreach partnership at Boston Logan International Airport that allows United customers to select books to read on cross-country flights. The outreach initiative now includes books donated by Etruscan Press and faculty from the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Wilkes University.

This literary partnership represents the strong commitment to community by Etruscan Press, United Airlines, and Wilkes University.

Following is an excerpt from the United Airlines Intranet site regarding this initiative:

by Matt Adams – United Airlines “Flying Together”

Book Smart

United Airlines employees Jen Ruffini and Bob Di Rice, founders of “Books on the Fly”

Going above and beyond for our customers takes many forms, and it doesn’t always involve something dramatic. Sometimes it’s the small things we do to make someone’s day a little better and their time in the air go by a little quicker.

Last May, BOS (Boston) Customer Service Representatives Jen Ruffini and Bob Di Rice noticed that dozens of books that employees had brought from home were piling up in the station break room. It seemed a shame that they were sitting there going unread, so Jen and Bob decided to make good use of them. They loaded as many books as they could on a cart and rolled it down to one of the gates, offering them to customers before their flight departed. It was a simple, brilliant idea that was an immediate hit and one that continues to delight.

“We started taking the cart to the gates before long-distance flights, like the ones to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the response was great,” Bob said. “When we bring the cart out, we make an announcement and tell people about it, and customers end up taking a book and leaving ones that they’re finished with for other people to read.”

At full capacity, BOS’s miniature library, which employees have named “Books on the Fly,” holds about 40 books and has something for every taste, from fiction to philosophy to children’s stories. They’ve even begun carrying a few foreign language books for readers from outside the United States. Over the past nine months, Bob estimates that they’ve given away upwards of 1,500 books, all donated by employees and customers.

As far as he can tell, no other airline or airport offers anything like this, and customers who regularly travel through BOS actively seek out the book cart to pick up a new title for their next trip. But aside from the pure entertainment and educational value, Bob sees another benefit to the book-sharing program.

“I think there’s a psychological aspect to having a book, something tangible, when you travel,” he said. “It can be comforting. And when you watch the customers talk with each other about the books they’ve read, you see their faces soften. It’s like the stress disappears.”

Etruscan Press and Wilkes University are honored to partner in this initiative to produce and promote books that nurture the dialogue among genres, cultures, and voices.

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