Dear Customer Service Representative:

Thanks for the wonderful ski trip. Though I know I really can't credit your airline for the sun and snow, you made getting there and back a fascinating experience. Who says customer service has to suffer in the mega-airline age?

I loved leaving from Dulles at 9:20 a.m. The cab ride was a steal at $35 and once on the plane we had plenty of time to rest before takeoff. The captain's explanation that the FAA traffic control computer had gone down "paralyzing all air traffic on the East Coast" for an hour was both reassuring and some real inside information. I have yet to see it reported anywhere.

The wait on the runway built up my appetite for the corn flakes and banana you served, and the fact we were an hour late into Denver kept me from overeating at lunch. Or, indeed, having lunch at all. And your feeder airline, landing us in Montrose, instead of Telluride as scheduled, gave us a chance to see the beautiful Colorado countryside during the hour-long drive from there. We didn't want to ski that day anyway and the late arrival put us at the condo within minutes of friends who had left Denver later on another airline.

I want you to know I'm not upset about the skis. It could have happened to anyone, and, according to everyone I met, usually does. I hadn't realized that your baggage facility in Denver was known as "The Black Hole." As your baggage man explained on my inquiry, each day, "The skis could be anywhere." It's true you can't get those Olin Mark VIIs any more, but they'd been used twice, so what the heck. With the spring sales, I'll probably be able to buy some replacements at only two or three times their original price.

And speaking of price, you should see my new powder suit! A steal at $250! I probably would have worn my year-old outfit had you not lost it, including the long underwear, along with the skis. The new suit went fine with the rental skis, and I know you'll make good your promise to reimburse me for those. At some point.

But the best part was the return trip. I might have been bored with the uneventful flight from Telluride to Denver. After all, I didn't even have skis to worry about any more. But the hour-long wait aboard the connecting flight in Denver was full of suspense. Would they get the fuel pump in the wing fixed? Or would we have to get off the plane? Letting us have a drink or a snack while waiting would have just taken the edge off the tension.

When we finally did get off the plane we needed that 10-gate hike down to the next appointed departure point, and by that time a half-hour wait there was nothing. And on the second plane, the leaky hydraulic system was a riot! How everybody laughed! The hour-long wait for that repair just flew by. Even without lunch. By the time we left at 5 p.m. we might have overindulged at the bar cart had you made such a gesture as an offer of a free drink. Good thing you didn't. And as for the arrival at Dulles, listen, lots of flights get in after 10 p.m. The proof is all the gates were full and we had to wait on the runway. I wouldn't have realized that was due to the traffic controllers "jerking us around." In more than 30 years of flying that's the first time I've ever heard delays explained that way. Both coming and going!

Well, I'm home now, and it's just like I never left. I've replayed the flights several times in my mind and I still marvel at how you accomplished everything you did. Perhaps the best explanation is the one given just a few hours ago by your lady at the lost and found in Denver when I phoned to ask again about the missing skis.

"The truth is," she said, "there's really no one person in charge."

Yours truly,