Flying Ain’t What It Used To Be

In the 1950’s and 60’s airplane travel for the general public was a novelty. It was a way for the rich to get to exotic destinations for their vacations. I said ‘the rich’, flying was not cheap, but the ones that could afford it were treated like royalty from the time they entered the airport until they deplaned onto the tarmac in some foreign sunny destination. The planes themselves were rather rustic by today’s standards but were by no means shoddy. After all, they had to stay aloft for very long flights.

In those days there were not enough planes in the air, nor passengers on the ground, for there to be massive long lines, so arriving for a flight was a leisurely affair. If you waited until the last minute you would inevitably be stuck standing waiting for your ticket to be issued and bags checked but it was a short wait and the route to the gate was obstruction free and quite direct.

Flying to Hawaii in the early 60's

Flying to Hawaii in the early 60’s

Once boarded you might think you were ensconced in a 5 star hotel. Stewardesses ran up and down the aisle catering to your every whimsy.  You got fed and even had a choice of what you could eat. The food left a little to be desired but those fortunate enough to be there to eat would rave about it to those that remained with their feet on the ground.

Time passed. Airplanes improved. The airlines expanded their fleets and more and more people had access to trips abroad. People had more disposable income and could to afford fly. For awhile the experience was more or less the same, but soon it became standard to put up with crowds from the beginning of the experience to the end. Travel in the air was still an adventure but no longer the playground of the rich and famous.

Then two things happened. The number of people flying exploded and it becomes hard to find seats when you want, to where want. And airlines decided to concentrate on the bottom line rather than customer service.

The first thing allowed the second to happen. It started when the airlines TOLD us we were willing to fly with fewer perks as long as the flight cost less. The airlines have taken this on whole hog and now you can buy a plane ticket and fly as if in a semi loaded with cattle headed to the abattoir. The stewards are now sales people rather than hosts. The food is now purchased if so desired. Liquer is the same. Duty free. Headsets. For now you can still get a pop or juice included in the price, but I’m sure that too is on the cutting block.

Airlines have decided to charge for all checked baggage. In my opinion they looked at this as a cash cow and figured everyone would have to pay an extra $25 when they flew. I think they misjudged this a little but still came out on the better end of the dollar. People started to pack carry on only, so the extra cash was not forthcoming but the result was, less baggage handling , less lost baggage, and less weight on the plane (less fuel), all of which increased the bottom line.

The airline companies have forgotten about the customer and will charge you to scratch your own arse if you are on their flight. I totally disagree with this philosophy and would much rather see them take on the attitude of taking care of the customer. The company I worked for believed in this and the bottom line, the airlines’ main concern, took care of itself. In fact the business grew so fast it was hard to keep up. I don’t hear too many good things about people’s flying experiences and that can only be detrimental in the long run. Unfortunately, the airlines have an excess of customers so they can call any shots they see it. They need to switch their focus,take care of the customer, and the bottom line will grow in response.

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