Airline Travel Then And Now

Is airline travel something you dread? I used to look forward to it very much. So did our kids. The air travel part of the holiday was something we would not have wanted to do without; even though rolling carry on luggage still needed to be invented. Now? I’m not so sure. Airline travel has changed!

Thinking back, one trip in particular stands out. It was just I and the three children, 3, 8 and 10. One would think the quicker we got that over with the better, but no. In those days there was legroom even in economy. Flight attendants – we called them stewardesses – were picture book perfect in appearance and customer service. Meals were served on real china and the cutlery was silver.

There were no movies, but we could listen to music, read, do puzzles or sleep. I remember getting to know my seat neighbors quite well during the course of an 8 or 9 hour flight. Children often got to know other children. They would colour together or play cat’s cradle or cards. Adults would move together so they could visit, while children socialized across the aisle.

All this has changed. The expectation today is for cheap airline travel. It is no longer anything we expect to save for until the necessary funds are in place. In the past, the only cheaper rates available were through a registered group that chartered an airplane. Often that also involved a whole lot of red tape. Today all airlines try to cut costs because that is what the customer seems to want. They cut costs often at the expense of quality of service.

Once upon a time, there used to be more legroom and not all seats were filled. Today’s airplanes, by comparison, seem to have shrunk. ‘Bums in seats’ have become an important statistic. Additional controls put in place after 9/11 have not helped either. Having to be at the airport hours before take off really adds to the time needed to get from point A to point B. More stringent weight restrictions make packing and deciding what to pack an ever more ominous chore and lightweight quality rolling carry on luggage plays an ever greater part in making airline travel bearable.

Being aware of airline luggage restrictions has become more important than ever, and checking airline exemptions ahead of packing is more than just a good idea. Fortunately today’s more lightweight materials help keep the weight of the empty luggage in check. That helps in making airline travel bearable. More neighborly interaction with fellow passengers would make it more enjoyable.

Some airlines do try very hard to reinvent customer service – no meals, but very entertaining flight attendants. Screens built into the back of the seat in front of you permit TV watching and game playing. What suffers, in my opinion, is communication between passengers. Unfortunately!

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