When Flying Was Fun
After being cooped up inside the airplane for thirty minutes, a cabin filled with passengers learned we would not be taking off.
“We can’t seem to locate the pilot,” the flight attendant announced over the loudspeaker.
“We’re doing our best to remedy the situation. In the meantime, sit tight.”
Is there really any other way to sit on an airplane these days?
The man next to me had claimed the armrest and, as he began to snore, his legs relaxed into a wide stance, his knees encroaching into my tight space.
I thought about the Good Ole Days.
Before we had to take off our shoes. Before we had to be patted down and swabbed. Before we had to be x-rayed and scanned and probed.
Once upon a time, people loved to travel by air. Folks even dressed up to look nice in the airport because air travel was for the elite. Cheerful clerks gave us our boarding passes, tagged our bags, and placed them gently on the conveyer belt. So long as our suitcases didn’t weigh over eleventy-seven tons, we were allowed to check two bags through without any additional charges.
In the good ole days, security was minimal. A man could carry a whole case of rubbing alcohol onto the plane if he wanted; no one would have thought a thing about it. No one had to remove his shoes or belts or jacket. We did not have to be x-rayed or scanned or swabbed or probed. Our gels and liquids did not have to be segregated into quart-sized baggies.
Once upon a time, air travel was sexy. Flight attendants were women. We called them stewardesses. They liked their jobs and seemed interested in passengers’ comfort.
In the 1970s, stewardesses had names like Kimberly, Debbie, Julie and Susie. They wore starched uniforms and easy smiles. Tall and tan and leggy, stewardesses looked like life-sized Barbie Dolls.
Appearing quickly at the touch of a button, stewardesses wore starched uniforms and easy smiles, prepared to offer an extra blanket.
But back then, everyone had blankets. And pillows. And if you got on the plane early enough, there were even magazines to borrow. Good ones.
People rarely needed anything. After all, our bags had been checked and were out of the way, so we read books or napped. No one walked around admonishing passengers to turn off their electric devices because those things hadn’t been invented yet.
Once passengers buckled up, they started to think about the meal they were going to receive because for a time, every major airline served 4-course meals. And these meals were gourmet.
The Transportation Library archival collections at Northwestern University lists scores of old airline menus. United Airlines’ coach class meals included salads, desserts, sandwiches and beverages, with menu items such as “Broiled Tenderloin Tips a la Deutsch” (1973, Chicago – San Francisco) and Continental boasted ” Breast of Chicken Vodkaliano” (1979, Washington to Denver).
My husband remembers United Airline’s Sunshine Flight that departed daily from Rochester, New York to Florida in the 1970s. “Everyone got crab legs and a slice of key-lime pie,” he says with a faraway look in his eye.
I remember airline meals coming on silver trays with cloth napkins and real cutlery. Everyone was given knives. And no one worried about getting stabbed.
On my recent trip to Florida, I felt fortunate to have received my tiny pouch of pretzels and half can of soda.
While we waited for the pilot to be located, the woman on my right read over my shoulder as as I typed my words. “I see you’re writing about the way air travel used to be.” She crossed and uncrossed her ankles. “There used to be a lot more legroom.”
Once upon a time, there was more legroom.
And more space between seats, too.
And they never misplaced the pilots.
What do you remember about flying in the Good Old Days?
tweet me @rasjacobson
I’m hooking up with the wonderful people from Yeah Write again this week. Click on the badge to be transported to the grid & consider joining us!
252 thoughts on “When Flying Was Fun”
We came to Miami in 1954 in that 4 engine, prop, 3 tailed Super Constellation. It was the pride of passenger travel at the time. For me it was a four and a half hour rattling tin box so loud it left ya kinda deaf for several hours.
Okay, so…something sexy happened between 1954 and 1970. Clearly.
Hahaha! The description is even sexier! 🙂
Oh my gosh, isn’t it sad that I barely remember it at all? I remember flying to France when I was in high school, but any comfort was lost on me because, hello, I was flying to FRANCE. My next memory is when I was flying to my grad school auditions (2002ish) and the x-ray technicians thought my clarinet might be a weapon.
Oh, and the time I had scissors in my purse. They were actually my mother’s scissors, and they were pretty good. Now some airline security guy in Arizona has them. Oops.
Sorry to hear about your scissors. They are resting with a fabulous pair of very dangerous looking tweezers that I lost post 9/11. Meanwhile, I had the craziest flight back from Europe after company that got me there (in the 90s) SHUT DOWN while I was abroad.
That was excellent.
I remember landing in NYC in the middle of the night and just being so glad to be in the United States.
Oh my gosh! That’s extreme! Well, we’re glad you made it home.
It was right after 9/11 so I think they were being extra cautious. And they were sharp. But still, I can’t believe they took them. I’ve never found anything that worked quite as well.
oh, haha, I was actually referring the the flight company shutting down while you were abroad, but I understand the loss of the tweezers. Good ones are totally hard to find!
Hahahahaha! So funny. Yes, that was traumatic, too! It took forever to re-book me (pre-Internet and pre-Twitter) as the phone lines were tied up for hours. I remember crying and crying until my friend’s father shouted at me to calm down. In Italian. But seriously? The tweezers? They were my grandmother’s, so that was worse.
Two words: Midwest Express. They flew out of Milwaukee and it was the most wonderful flying experience! Gooshy leather seats, meals served with silver cutlery and a sharp knife (gasp!) and drinks served in glass glasses, not these tippy plastic things they have now. The atmosphere just made everyone nice, but I may be making that part up. It made me think of our recent flight to Italy, when one toad in the front row was berating the stewardess (he just went on and on) because his mother in the next seat didn’t have enough of this, or there was too much of that. She wasn’t saying a peep, which made me wonder how bad the experience really was. I’ll bet he wouldn’t have behaved like such a cretin had he flown Midwest…
I LURVE the word “gooshy.” That captures it perfectly. It was just soooo comfortable back in the Good Ole Days. It was all about comfort and luxury rather than security and safety.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life? There’s always one toad. And the toads seem to like those front rows. 🙂
When I was young we didn’t get gourmet meals, but we did get a meal on every flight and there was usually at least two choices. They were more like TV dinner style meals with entree, side, dessert included. I can still smell the airplane egg patty and sausage! I wouldn’t eat that now but at the time I loved it!
You must be a little bit younger than I am. Obviously the airlines had already started to scale back by the time you got in board.
I’m guessing you’ve had your fair share of peanuts. And pretzels.
I am 36. By the time I was a teenager they had already done away with real food but they still gave a wide selection of snacks. Now they don’t even give you the whole can of soda! Pfft.
Yup. I’m 45. I guess the airlines lost a lot of glamor in those 9 years. *sad face* You’ll always have that egg patty. 😉
When my grandparents flew in from Seattle for my birth in 1967, they asked the stewardess if they could keep the silverware to give to their new grandson. I have a set of very nice, odd-shaped silverware with the United logo on each piece.
My first flying experience was in 1984, when I flew to Germany for the summer. I remember shockingly little about the flight, but boy howdy do I remember the sharp, stabbing pain in my ears when we landed. Every landing thenceforth resulted in such pain until a business flight in about 1991 where my ears went POP!!!!. I was sure I’d just permanently gone deaf, but nope. I never had problems with landings again.
I haven’t flown since 2005, when I used to go to Baltimore all the time. I was working on a Medicare contract and that’s where Medicare’s galactic headquarters are located. On Social Security Boulevard, to be exact; they share a street with the Social Security Administration. But I digress. That was post 9/11, and I always flew Southwest, and so while the flights were cheap, they were dreadful.
Jim! Have you ever written about that UNITED silverware? I’d love to read your words and see a photo of each piece! If you have, will you send the link?
I can’t believe you haven’t flown in 7 years. Does this mean you are sticking close to home these days? Or that you’ve found a new and improved mode of transportation? Like trains? Or unicorns? 🙂
I’ll put it on my list to find that silverware, photograph it, and write about it.
I hated my post-9/11 flying experiences so much that I’ve driven everywhere on vacation since. And fortunately my jobs haven’t required travel since then.
I just popped over to your blog! Love your photos and your piece about standardized testing! If you do find that silverware, will you send me a quick email or tweet or comment? I’d LOVE to read more from you! 🙂 ANd thanks for bopping by today!
You got it!
I think I have eight place settings of United silverware, because a friend grabbed them when they were throwing them away post 9/11. I will take a photo!
Ooooh! Yes yes and yes! Will you let me know. Are you on Twitter? I’m @rasjacobson if you are! I’d love to see them. Or if you write a post about it, PLEASE tag me!
Boy howdy?? I’ve never heard that before, and I just love it!! I’m definitely going to file that away for future use, Jim. Thanks! Reminds me of a flight I took to Florida eons ago. Unfortunately, I tossed my cookies into one of those teensy weensy bags they kept in the back of each seat for just such an event. I didn’t know what to do with the dumb bag when we landed, so my mom (ever the cleaner and organizer, that one) suggested I hand it to the flight attendant. Egads! Just the “going away present” the poor lady envisioned when I left the plane! I think I found a trash can somewhere…
I hereby grant you perpetual license to the term “boy howdy.” Enjoy!
Thanks, Jim! I’ll use it wisely. 🙂
I love the “boy howdy.” And I love when people chat at my place. I feel like I’m in a room filled with lively conversation! 🙂
You must be an extrovert! We introverts are off hiding in the corner.
Any memories about the Good Old Days have been exclipsed by the nightmare memories of Flying Now. Here’s a recent one. Flying with my daughter and twin baby sons, the Jobswortn at security made her (a) drink from the two bottles of baby milk to prove they weren’t filled with explosive and (b) open and taste the two yoghourts she’d bought for their meal. Then when he’d established that they weren’t explosive either, he moved us on so peremptorily that she had no opportunity to repack decently. Result? One case full of spoiled holiday clothing, and no meal for the babies. Sure, security’s important. But so’s treating passengers with courtesy. If they find these tests necessary, they should also make it possible for those who’ve been subjected to them to continue their onward journey in a dignified manner.
I’ve seen parents taking sips from their baby’s bottles while going through security. At first, I had no idea what they were doing and then I realized they were proving that the innards were not filled with explosives. I can’t believe they made her open the yogurt. That seems unnecessary — but I guess that is the way of the world these days. It makes me sad.
By far and away I remember the stewardesses at Southwest Airlines and just how MANY were around when I was with Mom at her office at Love Field. I could not stop gawking and dreaming and…well…
Those uniforms, those very snug uniforms with short red shorts, white go-go boots with the big white belt over their hips was absolute TORTURE for a young pre-teen boy! And I’m putting that tamely polite.
One other very minor benefit of her being a 10+ year employee of SWA were the free-flights (or very cheap airfare) to any SWA destinations. 🙂
Professor. Certainly you are a member of the Mile High Club, yes? 😉
WHAT!? Not sure whether to wear that implied feather-in-my-hat, deny outright, or be appalled by the audacity of such a question! I thought this Q&A was about the “glamour” days of air travel? 😉
Leather seats with wide armrests, headrests that fit the shape of my shoulders, neck AND head, comfortable seat cushion large enough for real size eighteen hips, room to kick off my shoes without fear of losing them in someone else’s stowed-under-the-seat luggage because there was no stowed-under-the-seat luggage.
I also remember when jets criss-crossing the globe night and day had not disrupted air and sky quality, allowing the Milky Way to brighten the sky as clearly as a full moon. I remember being able to drive past an airport with clouds of jet fumes and fuel overtaking my sealed-window car. I remember when I could walk to the gate for a long good-by with my partner-turned-husband or await his return flight at the gate or in my car, no matter how long it took.
I remember empty middle seats, or enough empty seats in each row that everyone could stretch out for an entire flight, not risking sciatica flares or embolisms… And air, real air, enough air for all in the cabin–sometimes I feel like I should have brought oxygen despite my perfectly working heart and lungs!
I remember a beautiful early morning flight, heading west to see my sister in Albuquerque. The view of Niagara Falls was brilliant from the air, white plume of mist rising like a geyser. The pilot pointed it out to those on the left side of the plain, encouraged those on the right to get up to look out the left windows, and even dipped and turned the plane for all to see the spectacular view…stewardesses making sure even the shyer folks had a chance to linger at window.
I remember when it was common practice for pilots to tell travelers where we were and to point out places and sights of interest along the way…
Two years ago we took a train trip with the grandchildren to Chicago, rented a car and headed to Champagne-Urbana for the Rogers Family Reunion. Two accidents east of Rochester meant the train was late, very late in arriving and leaving. Both kids fell asleep at the train station, waiting for the train to arrive–think hard, wooden benches, a grandparent lap each for a headrest. Fortunately, Grandma–I–had gotten each child a blanket and pillow pet for the trip. It was a loooong trip.
Along the way, a family with a gazillion kids and one unhappy Fresh Air Kid (we overheard her as she told our granddaughter about being a Fresh Air Kid, how her mid-west family from her ears made it clear this child was NOT one of them…) got on the train, heading to a family wedding, picking up other relatives on the way. Our two grandkids became part of that moving summer camp, sharing stories, snacks, card games, and impressions of lives lived very differently.
Too make an already long story short, it was not the best of trips–hot, humid, air so bad all should have been indoors (where would have been had we listened to the weather report on ozone and UV index) instead of at the city park playing volleyball and drinking case after case of bottled water, so much so that a run was made for a couple more cases. No soda, nor beer that day. Just too icky.
On the way back to Chicago for an add-on vacation, older grandchild became very sick, strep throat which had been diagnosed and supposedly treatment begun (that’s a whole other story about medical incompetence!) was turning into mono. Younger brother had finished his medication on the way to reunion and had recovered nicely from his strep throat. Grandpa and Grandson enjoyed the sights of Chicago while Grandma and Granddaughter enjoyed ice, ginger ale, and cartoons at the hotel. To say that we were glad to finally arrive by train back in Rochester is an understatement…
Older grandchild was taken to Urgent Care where her mono was diagnosed and the proper medicine, one that WAS EFFECTIVE against strep and mono, was prescribed. Vacation was extended by a week so Grandma could care for her sick granddaughter while parents worked. It was a quiet, craft-filled, movie, drink loads of fluids and eat popcicles and ice cream week. When we were finally in the car, heading for the three hour trip to the North Country, we asked, “Would they do it again–the delayed, loooong train ride, Chicago (can’t get out of reunion!), loooong train ride home?” There was no delay in their answer. YES!! A DEFINITE YES!!! Planes be damned. We had made converts. Now if we could just convince others that seeing the world from an earthworm’s eye view is so much better than from a big bird…
Hahahaha! I like taking trains, too. And depending on where you’re trying to go, taking a train can be much less expensive and actually more convenient. You’ve certainly had a lot of train adventures. Thanks for sharing, D’Alta! 😉
I remember packing all I wanted without thoughts of baggage fees! Sigh…
I know, right? In the Good Ole Days, we could bring ALL our shoes! 🙂
My mom loves telling me tales of the olden days of plane travel – she still thinks I should dress nicely when I fly- and also about when trains were a lovely experience as well.
I understand why people dress down when they fly now. These days, we basically have to strip down. And anything in our pockets has to be dumped into those gray bins and then repacked, so what’s the point? Yoga pants are the logical choice. But as a nation, we do look rather shlubby when we travel.
I sort of vaguely remember those days. I guess I didn’t fly that much back in the days when they served you meals, although I do remember eating a pretty good meal on a flight to Hawaii when Kim and I went on our honeymoon. I think the worst thing now is the baggage fees, it’s like, just build it into the price of the ticket… somehow I’ll feel better that way.
I HATE those baggage fees. Just tell me how much the ticket costs and leave me alone.
I think that’s why I’m digging Southwest. They provide the illusion of free bags.
But you know what? I’m okay with that. Just don’t nickel and dime me, ya know?
I think youngins would be surprised to know that you used to be able to smoke on airplanes. How disgusting is that?
When I worked for the beer company, they sent me to California for 6 months. For 6 months a bartender kept asking me to hang out with him one night, but it never worked out until the last night I was there. We drank dollar pints of Budweiser and did a shot of each brand of tequila the bar had (there were a lot and I only remember thinking Hornitos was ok). Anyway, how I made it to my flight the next morning is still a mystery and of course, it was the one time ever that I sat next to a pretty woman on a flight. I’m sure I reeked of booze and may have told her that she was real purty before I passed out for the nearly 5 hour flight. Sadly, she did not wake me with a kiss on my forehead to eat my meal or upon landing, but a fugly flight attendant was kind enough to do so with her shrill voice and finger in my ribcage on both occasions. Good times!
I’ve been on plenty of older airplanes where they STILL have ashtrays. And when I flew to Italy the first time (in the 90s), people were allowed to smoke. And you know what Dono, maybe the airplanes had the right idea. Get people tanked and let them pass out so we forget that we are a zillion miles in the air in a giant metal can. After some of the squalor I’ve experienced in the air, I just as soon skip that part and take the flight attendant poking me in the ribs.
Am I allowed to rest on the shoulder of the good-looking guy in the seat next to me?
Well, I don’t know how you smell, but from a purely visual perspective, yes, I think you could get away with it.
I’m going to try it the next time I fly. You think my husband will get pissed at me? Leaning on that other guy? 😉
Oh yeah, don’t do it with your husband nearby unless he has a hottie on the other side of him. I think it’s ok then.
That seems fair. I’m glad I checked with you.
I know, right? Between my parenting and my excellent husbanding, I need to find time to write a how to book! Good luck! I’ve been swamped, but I shall write a letter soon!
Yes please. You could win $25! Think how psyched your wife would be if you got her a gift card to the store of her choice! 😉 Just sayin’! Get on it. Or get down on it (if you really want it.)
Have you gotten many? I’m looking forward to reading about this adventure of yours.
Five so far. Did you see the first one, from BrickHouseChick? Scroll down. Another one will run this week. I just have to keep typing them up and sending them out. 😉
Yay for you on being Freshly Pressed, probably again! Lol. I’m totally not resentful or jealous and am nothing but happy for you!
Thank you! Can you believe? I think fewer people are writing in the summer. The fact that there was JUST that huge, terrible plane crash probably had something to do with it. *shrug* When you write your posts, do you tag them so that the people ar WP notice you? You know #travel #entertainment #personal, etc… If you don’t know what I’m talking about I can send you a link. 🙂
No, I suck at tagging my junk, giggity! I’m just teasing you though, it was fun post and very deserving! As long as somebody likes my posts or says that they laughed or feel sorry for me, I’m a happy pappy!
Great to know you are Freshly Pressed!! I am not surprised. You tapped into everyone’s feelings about flying these days. I detest flying–not because of security–but because I cannot stand being sardined-in… My husband knows to always reserve an aisle seat for his claustrophobic, over-active bladdered wife–NO MATTER COST!! I’ll save my tripping for racing down the aisle before the seat belt sign is lighted..
See how you tap into memories…of how it is…and how much we’ve lost…more than most even know… Thank you!
I was on a flight recently in which a couple of more experienced flight attendants were talking about quitting because it’s just not fun anymore, constantly making people’s trips less and less pleasant. That can’t be a good sign…
Also, on a changover at LAX, the staff was openly hostile to all of the people getting on board. He tore up the boarding pass of someone I was traveling with for not answering his question quickly enough, and made him go get another one.
Byro: I’ve overheard conversations like that as well. While standing around waiting to use the bathroom, I’ve heard fight attendants bitching and cussing about how unhappy they are. That’s always awkward. In the unlikely event of a water landing, I’m guessing those folks would be outta there.
Lol, I’m picturing David Spade the flight attendant for some reason. BuBYE! BuBYE! I said ByBYE!!!
I remember that Broiled Tenderloin Tips a la Deutsch meal on the1973, Chicago – San Francisco flight. The steak was a tad overcooked.
In the case of airplane food, better over-cooked than undercooked. Can you imagine the line for the bathroom had there been food poisoning? Oy.
Just found out about the latest FP on this oh-so-excellent post. Damn – let a girl know when something like this happens! (congrats on #7 – so deserved)
nothing – I remember nothing–in those days they used to hypnotize us as we got off the plane and we did not remember what happened on the plane–a few times though I wonder what happened to my…………
It’s true. We’d just look out at those fluffy, puffy clouds and be happy to be on the ground. 😉
Ah… the good old days, When you could walk down to the gate without a ticket to meet someone coming in, or see someone off. When going to the airport (and flying) was an adventure, not a chore. When you just had to walk thru the metal detector (Again. without a ticket!) and you didn’t have to prove you weren’t a terrorist before they let you out to the gates. When the only thieves you had to worry about stealing from your luggage was the maid staff at your destination hotel, and not the “Security” agents in a TSA badge.
I can remember as a kid when American Airlines passed out fun things for kids, like pin on pilots wings. Travel amenities kits for all the passengers (not just those in the expensive seats).
Making a 10min connection in DFW from New Orleans, arriving at the gate at one end of the giant C-shaped terminal, and having 10 mins to make a connection at the gate on the far end of the terminal (with no option to cut straight across), and running like OJ Simpson in a Hertz commercial to make the flight. Made it just in time to the gate, only the plane was late arriving, and after it did, we sat at the gate with a mechanical issue, before finally taking off for Seattle, then on to Anchorage & finally Fairbanks, Alaska. Try running through an airport terminal now and see how fast you end up in handcuffs.
First time I flew by myself, I was 13, from Cleveland to New Orleans, with a stop over in Covington, KY on Delta. Everyone but me got off the plane so the crew could clean the cabin. It’s an eerie feeling being the only passenger in the plane.
Derek! I remember those amenities: toothbrushes and little sewing kits! There were needles in there, weren’t there? And of course kids got pin-on “wings”! Those things were soooo cool.
Your running like OJ reference made me remember how, once, we RAN like crazy through the Atlanta airport, trying to make a connection. I was huffing and puffing. But we had made it.
Or so we thought.
When we got to the gate, we leaned the flight attendant had sold our tickets, even though we made it to the gate within 15 minutes before the flight was schedules to take off. They didn’t care at all that my husband and I had scrambled across two concourses with a young child in tow! Nope. I remember we had to fight for food vouchers. And then we were stuck. For hours. Love your memories! Thanks for sharing!
Renee, as a one time resident of NOLA, you will appreciate this. Back in the early to mid-80s, just GETTING to MSY was an adventure. We would come up to Raceland, and catch US 90, headed east, all the way in to Westwego, cross the Huey P. Long Bridge (with it’s 2 narrow “lanes” on each side, always nerve-wracking), come up Elmwood to Airline Hwy, and then trek out west to the airport. Then, turn around and make the entire trip in reverse to come home! The opening of the Hale Boggs Bridge (Luling) made things easier, with only 2 swampy roads to travel and some to-ing and fro-ing on the River roads (both banks) to connect to Airline Hwy, west of the airport. Now, with the I-310 opened up (In the mid-90s, to directly connect the bridge to Hwy 90 on one end, and Airline Hwy & I-10 on the other) it’s become a breeze.
OMG! I can’t even imagine that nightmare trip. If you picked someone people at the airport, they had to know you REALLY loved them! Just going over the Huet P. Long is a major obstacle! 🙂
They just opened the full bridge after a multi-year reconstruction project. It’s now 3 actual lanes wide, with a shouled in both directions. Gone are the traffic circles at either end… you might recognize the train bridge in the middle, that’s it. So much nicer – I will actually go that way now. 😀
*grumble* Where’s the Edit button? Should read “shoulder” not “shouled”. *grumble*
No worries. We all make errors. And we usually notice them right after we hit SUBMIT.
I don’t know if you saw my piece a while back about how I’m TERRIFIED on bridges, but…um, yeah. I am. And Huey P. Long?
Freaks. Me. Out.
Despite those improvements, I’m pretty sure I’d still weep big gloppy tears driving over that bridge.
I must have missed that one. You need to come down and experience the NEW Huey P. Long then. 😀 Really, now it’s no worse than any other interstate fly-over you’d drive on, and actually, a lot more comfortable because you have 3 lanes, and not the curving one or two of most exchanges. *Comment carefully scanned for errors before submitting*
*shivers* Okay, I’m not sending you the link because you are NOT getting my fear.
*not scanned at all*
I don’t think anyone who has sat in the left seat and flown a plane himself ever really enjoys riding on a commercial plane. The ones I used to fly cruised at 125 to 160 mph instead of 500+ – but they were a lot more fun.
David, I can’t imagine how you fly commercial. It must be TORTURE!
Spent a little time in Cessna 150, 152 & 172s, back in college. Nothing like flying IFR(3) – I Follow Roads, Rails and Rivers! Always fun to land something that small at a major airport, you can almost land crossways across the active. 😉 Landed in Memphis in the backseat of the 172, and I think they had us taxi on I-40 halfway to Nashville before we made it to the FBO. Same trip, after take off to New Orleans, we tuned in an LSU baseball game, and went buzzing along over Mississippi listening to the game.
I share your memories of flying the friendly skies. In fact, after reading this I’m feeling verklempt.
I know, right? When you think about how much we have lost over the years, it is kind of sad.
Recently, I took a flight with my oldest son. I spent a good part of the flight explaining to him all of the ways air travel has changed over the years. There were many points. Most have already been mentioned. Smoking, meals, comfort, amenities. At least he won’t ever have to miss those things. I just wonder what it will be like when he’s explaining his childhood to his own kids. Cages? Upright Planks? Stacked capsules?
Misty: I often think about how much we have given lost. I know we have to be safe — and that security measures are there for our safety, but seriously? We seem to have lost something bigger. You hit on it when you mention cages. I think we’ve felt a little bit like prisoners when we’ve traveled these days. I wish we could go back to treating each other with a little more civility than we do now, ya know?
I remember it exactly as you describe it, Renee. It makes me so nostalgic to think about how it used to be. The fact that things have gone the other extreme now is criminal!! And I feel like we are helpless about it because they have us. We need to fly so we have to put up with their antics. I think we should all unite and revolutionize against the airlines and demand change. I miss those yummy dinners, they were 10 times better than school lunches, that’s for sure! 🙂
Hi darlin’! I just left a comment for Misty where I said sort of the same thing you did here! I feel like we’ve stopped believing in humanity. I really believe there are more good people in the world than people hell-bent on destroying us… and yet, I understand why we need these security measures. It just seems like we’ve given up so much out of fear. I’m not surprised that people love reading dystopian books because in some ways we’re living in one right now.
I agree with the security measures, but that shouldn’t translate into rudeness. The lack of food and comfort on planes is about $$$$ and not security. I’m ok with taking off my shoes and being xrayed, but when I finally make it through security and on the plane, treat me with respect, courtesy and spoil me a little for being your customer. You hit a nerve, hee,hee. 🙂
I agree there needs to be some kind of balance; after all, we are paying customers and we deserve to be treated with kindness. That said, I’ve seen plenty of customers behave badly on airplanes. Once upon a time, people involved in the travel & tourism industry wanted to make sure customers felt comfortable, pampered and taken care of. Now it’s all about the bottom line. Sad sad sad.
I’m having trouble remembering a time when I HAVEN’T had a meltdown in airport security. Even when I was very young, they were always pulling me aside for extra inspection and wanding down my teddy bear. When I was in my early teens, I remember wearing my very first underwire bra, and of course they pulled me aside to wand me down. My bra kept setting off their sensor, and for a minute it looked like they were going to make me take my shirt off. I started crying, and they ended up bringing a woman officer over to feel me up, but they let me keep my shirt on. I felt so ashamed, especially with other passengers walking past and gaping at me like I was a criminal!
See, Rache. This is when I remember how young you are. I’m an old lady who used to fly $29 on People’s Express. Meanwhile, you don’t even know what that is. That said, I can’t even IMAGINE the horror of having someone come over to feel you up! On an up note, at least you can say you went to 2nd base with a stranger in an airport. 😉
Oh, yes! I remember those good old days! You could smoke in the back while drinking whiskey-coke. It really compared to going out on the town for the night (I did a lot of Amsterdam-Asia flights). Now, if I fly longer than 8 hours, I take a sleeping pill, praying I’ll miss most of it. There’s no need to stay awake for the meals, they usually are not that great and it’s definitely never enough.
Oh, those good old days 😉
That should be the new normal: just pop a pill and pray to wake up on the other side.
Having just returned from a trip to Boston with my parents, I heard all about this! LOL
My dad was convinced we needn’t pay extra to check our bags and he wanted to check 2. I told him no, we were only going to check 1 bag and that would still cost $25. He couldn’t believe it. And he refused to buy any food in the airport because it was so expensive (which is true), but I explained there would be no food on the plane, unless he wanted to pay $8 for the “snack box” that contained a small stick of beef jerky, some processed cheese, and 2 saltines. 😀
You should read my blog. You’ll hear all about what I dealt with for a week.
Jess, your dad sounds just like my dad, except my dad would have known all of this in advance and he would have packed peanut butter sandwiches. #truestory
Heading over to your place now to read more about your trip. So glad that Todd has become your new online bestie! 🙂
Oh we did pack snacks! My dad ate my entire bag of cheetos.
Not in one sitting, but he did.
On the flip side, how about smoking/non=smoking sections? As if the smoke didn’t float everywhere! Gag!!
I did used to enjoy flying so much more before all the changes you mentioned, though Renee! It’s true!
Maybe people are cranky these days because they can’t smoke. Is that why everything has gone to pot?
Fun, glamorous and far too expensive! That is the only bonus. You don’t have to take your shoes off in Australia and I did not like it when I was in the US. Gross airport floor!
Taking your shoes off is the WORST, isn’t it? Plus you have to see all those hairy toes. I’m convinced we’re all going to get warts. YUCK!
As a kid, I traveled between Scotland and Sydney each summer. I remember people smoked on flights. Cough cough. I remember men felt up the hostesses; they wore very short skirts then to make being felt up more convenient.
Okay, so maybe flying wasn’t ALWAYS fun. No one should have to be groped be sleazy businessmen. *cough cough*
I know, can you image. Shudders!
I definitely remember the going out to the gate part. Seeing your friend or relative come off the plane — that was fun. And my mom was big on dressing up for the plane. Wear jeans? Heaven forbid.
Interesting reading. I remember my grandma flying back to the UK and bringing serveral bars of soap and little sachets of “Mountain Water” aka Bacardi, well she did live in Vancouver so the mountain water was believable to a 10 year old boy, fiesty stuff that mountain water.
Actually, they misplaced the pilots plenty back then, too. I come from a family with pilots so I know way more than any sane individual needs to know about flying, airports, weather, and regulations. We’ve owned over a dozen planes. All trips to see grandma in Florida involved landing, not parking. Try telling your folks to pull over because you have to pee on THAT trip.
There is still a saying among pilots that pretty much sums up much of their stress control: “From bottle to throttle in eight hours.” That’s because, back in the good ol’ days, you could get so hammered, your hair hurt, and eight hours later, you could report for work at the controls of a 747 carrying hundreds of souls. I don’t know about you, but even the milder hangovers of my life compromised my impeccable judgment and cat-like reflexes.
Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.17 stipulates that no person may operate or attempt to operate an aircraft within 8 hours of having consumed alcohol, while under the influence of alcohol, or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04% or greater. But they don’t inspect pilots before a flight like they do the passengers.
Most major airlines today come down harder on their pilots, requiring at least 12 hours from bottle to throttle and the FAA acknowledges that problems can occur with BAC levels of 0.04%, citing problems in pilot performance where concentrations are as low as 0.025%. I’ve heard many a story about passengers waiting in their seats like you did while a team of colleagues was busy in the exec bathroom, working hard to sober the pilot up with everything from Redbull to cocaine, their pick-me-up of choice.
I’m not sayin’ all pilots are like this. But it only takes one plane crash to ruin your vacation.
In those “good ole days,” I wasnt yet born. But it’s so nice to know about those “good ole days,” they being told in such a creative way. Enjoyed reading it and all the beautiful comments 🙂
Oy. So were born in the Good Ole Days, eh? Well, maybe one day things will settle down and civility will return to the world. And then you can enjoy a lovely, delicious ride in the air. You think?
This was fantastic, Renee. I’m so glad I actually took the time to scan the FP page today so I didn’t miss it! CONGRATS!
I remember an elderly person once telling me that people used to get gussied up to travel by air. Like going to a Broadway play or something. Now I’ve heard it compared to riding a Greyhound bus. Actually, taking a bus sometimes sounds more convenient and comfortable. Sure, I might sit by a convict, I might get puked on, the driver won’t make eye contact with me, I won’t get fed and I may even get shanked by a passenger, but how is that different from flying? 🙂
Today we are TOTALLY chattel in the sky, no doubt. Thanks for stopping by, Angie. And congrats on your newest arrival. I’m guessing he did not come by air. But he might be a little bit cranky, just the same. 😉
God yes! this was on my mind on my way to Utah this past winter. There was more leg room…but now we have to pay to have more leg room in economy. The good old days;
More leg room, yes, and there was more shoulder room. The woman was looking over my shoulder. Completely. 😉
and I can definitely relate to the person falling asleep next to you. I can never fall asleep on the plane and there’s always someone who falls asleep and starts snoring or starts to sprawl out into my space as they get comfortable. Can’t even describe how much my knees hurt from sitting in those seats with no leg room.
I’m 19 and reading this made me kind of jealous of how good airline service was before! Im not saying every experience ive had was bad but comparing it to your good ole days…. Looks like i’ll never experience something like that in the future. Sad..
Hi Beatrice. I have to say, writing this post made me very nostalgic. I mean, the Good Old Days weren’t perfect. Flight attendants weren’t always treated well or paid fairly…but when we flew customers? We definitely felt a level of service that no longer exists. Maybe we’ll reach a tipping point one day. But probably not. It is sad.
remember smoking on the plane? haha fun times.
I never flew on planes, personally. But I TOTALLY remember watching people do it. And I remember the transition when people were getting busted in bathrooms because they were DYING for a cigarette mid-flight. I’m glad they don’t have smoking sections on planes anymore. It’s not like the smoke knew where to stop. Hahahaha!
I was a smoker but even I was bothered by the smoke. It was way too much. Gross. So glad that’s something that has changed.
I lament the loss of the real food, included in the price of the flight. There is a counterbalance, though– no smoking on the flight. Imagine, if you will, the horror of being seated in the last row of non-smoking, with row upon row of smokers immediately behind you, all industriously blowing their (and their fellows’) smoke forward. A window seat is of little use when one can’t see for the fumes.
As far as dressing up, I say do it. On my last air trip (family vacation to Disney World, no less, all of it abaft the wing), fedora and hounds-tooth sport jacket went into the x-ray bin along with the brogued wing-tips. I don’t know if it affected anyone’s response to me, but I FELT special, and that made a world of difference.
But there is something to be said about dressing up. Dressing up definitely creates an atmosphere that promotes respect. I’d love to see a photo of you in that fedora and houndstooth sport jacket! 😉
My father was fromBelgium. We were pretty lucky to travel overseas quite a bit considering my dad was pretty blue collar. I remember the meals, and the magazines, and the stewardesses. I can’t tell you how I wanted to grow up to be just like them and wear beautiful uniforms, have beautifully coiffed hair under a pillbox hat, or speak in sugary tones that put you at ease. I wanted to travel the world, fall in love with a pilot, and be regarded as living a glamourous lifestyle. Back then, if you were part of that elite crowd…you were Somebody. That era was really captured in the short lived TV show Pan AM. I watched it just to relive my childhood fantasies and was sad it was cancelled. The thing I remember the most, aside from the warm footies, and blankets, and ice cream I was served…were the wings. I will never forget my dad whispering something to a stewardess and a few minutes later the pilot came out and shook mine and my brother’s hands. He pinned a pair of wings on both of our shirts and thanked us for behaving so well. I was in awe. He was so dashing and confident and I was completely star struck. I’ve been a sucker for a guy in a uniform ever since. Lol. Those wings were the most coveted thing among the neighborhood kids when I got back home. Did you ever get a pair of wings?
Yes yes and yes! You totally get the romance of the time. Everything was so swanky and delicious. I remember watching various television shows in the 1970s and just LOVING the way the stewardesses did everything. They were so pretty and they got to wear the best uniforms. I’m pretty sure I wanted to BE a stewardess until I saw AIRPORT 1975, which was based on a plane crash that took place in the 1940s — I think. That’s when I decided life on the ground was probably a better option.
And yes, I TOTALLY remember people getting those wings. In my head I kind of remember the stewardesses selecting certain kids to go into the cockpit. I was never picked. If certain hair products had been invented in the 1970s, I’m sure I would have been selected — they just couldn’t see me under all that frizz. 😉
Traveling is no fun these days; Flights of starvation and emotionless stewardesses
Great post! What’s funny about this to me is that even though I’m too young to remember the true “glory days” (I’m in my 20s), in my own lifetime the experience of flying has greatly deteriorated – I remember a time when you didn’t have to take your shoes off to get through security, when you could actually meet your friends & relatives at their gates, and when you were guaranteed to at least get a measly bag of peanuts during the flight (I don’t even like peanuts, yet it bums me out that some airlines have done away with snacks entirely).
Well, even you can see the decline. But to me, it’s like a completely different world. I’m telling you, flying in the 1970s? Was. So. Sexy. I totally wanted to be a flight attendant. These days? Not so much.
I’ve never flown but it doesn’t seem like I am missing much.
These days, people are truly treated like chattel in the sky. Better to take a train. Seriously. At least you don’t have to do a total body cavity search when you take the train. At least, not yet. Mark my words… it’s coming.
We don’t have any trains here 🙂 But when i get a chance i will do both!
It is so crowded now, and I am short. I don’t know how tall people deal with it. I remember dressing up for my first flight when I was a teenager. It was so exciting and fun, and I remember liking the food.
My husband is forever cracking his head on the underside of the baggage compartment. He is an especially cranky traveller. Thanks for stopping by!
I fly over the Atlantic a lot. I think Lufthansa is still amazing. But they are not always affordable. I must give a shout out to the Amsterdam-Seattle Delta crew. Those guys and gals are great. They are happy and seem to really enjoy what they do. I fly in steerage, so don’t think I get special treatment in business class. I don’t enjoy flying. I don’t really think I ever did. I recently wrote about this too. http://mrsralf.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/smile-and-deep-breaths-how-i-survived-the-long-haul-flight/
Hi Kathleen: When you say “steerage” class, I picture people on ships all crammed in together. So, yes, I guess that’s what we have in the United States these day because very few airplanes truly have any real first-class accommodations anymore. Back in the day, more than a curtain separated the classes. People in first-class were treated to slippers and champagne and even better meals. They had bigger seats that were positively gooshy. Folks in first-class had a designated stewardess and a designated bathroom. Most planes in the United States have done away with this kind of service. They removed those first 3 rows and put in about 8 in their place. Nearly 20 people now sit where half as many sat. And people are bigger these days.
Like you, I’m not a big fan of flying.
Thanks for coming over to say hello. 😉
This reminded me of my last flight from Asheville. My mother was in the hospital for the last time and I had gotten the earliest flight of the day. We boarded the plane, then sat there for almost 2 hours while only being told we were waiting for the pilot to feel better. Finally we were told to exit the plane he couldn’t fly, and the flight was cancelled. I spent the next 10 hours in the airport trying to get to Chicago anyway I could. Finally Someone moved me to another airline, Flew out in the opposite direction, then flew back twice the distance. I did get there less than an hour before she died, but could have spent half a day with her had the flight left on time. In the past there would have been effort made to get me on another flight. These days we are just cattle.
Those kinds of delays are the WORST. Because you just know you had to load the plane to make some kind of statistic.
I’m so sorry that you had such an emotional trip during such a difficult time. I understand there are sometimes necessary delays, but in the Good Ole Days, people seemed to actually care that we made it to our destinations. Now? Not so much.
I’m just so glad you got to Chicago to see your mother.
What a treat!!! I loved reading about the “good ol’ days”! I can remember my first experience of flying with my mom….but my first experience by myself was one of the scariest things I had encountered up to that point. I was only 19! Think I will post THAT story tomorrow…LOL! I am old enough to remember smoking on flights, full meals even in coach and dressing up.
It is unfortunate we have to go through such security checks now…taking off our shoes and being patted down? really?? I think TSA agents get a little bit of a charge out of it, and I have my own horror stories about luggage being riffled through. It isn’t as much fun but I think some of the airlines are trying to make it more comfortable for international flying with sleeping chairs and one even boasts of “turn down” service! WOW! Too bad short domestic flights aren’t as much fun anymore 🙁
Thanks so much for the memories!
I TOTALLY want to read about your first flying experience! Will you link to me.. or tag me? Or if you tweet with you tweet me @rasjacobson? I’d love to see your piece! And yes, things have changed a lot. I was surprised when i learned WordPress picked up this piece, but now that I see so many people don’t realize all we have lost since 9/11…so, I guess it’s worth reminding people that times really have changed. We don’t always see what we are losing. I mean, I’m all about safety. I’ll take my shoes off and wait in lines, but once I’m on that plane it would be nice to be treated with kindness. I’m still a customer paying for a service, ya know? 😉
“Once upon a time, air travel was sexy. Flight attendants were women. We called them stewardesses. They liked their jobs and seemed interested in passengers’ comfort.”
And got fired when they got married or pregnant. Ah, the good old days …
I was JUST thinking about that. Not everything was wine and roses. But you gotta pick your angle. 😉
I remember smoking…a bad habit I gave up many years ago, thankfully. The airlines even gave away cigarettes. My aunt was a flight attendant (stewardess back then) on TWA. I recall her coming to our house with tiny packs of cigarettes with about 4 per pack – freebies from the airline.
I also remember my first flight – I was maybe 11 or 12 so it would have been around 1965 or 66. My mother made me wear the same clothes I wore to church. Black dress pants, white shirt and tie. I don’t recall much more about the flight, except it was on now long defunct Braniff, Des Moines to Kansas City. Ah…the old days…
There definitely something about dressing up that made people behave in a more civilized manner. I’m serious. When you’re wearing your Sunday best, it’s hard to act like a douche-bag. Or something. I’d like to say we can bring back that mojo, but yoga pants seem to have won.
I was very young in those good days of flying but I remember one good incident when I went to a stewardess, requesting her for a candy, and guess what did I get, a whole bag full of candies. So am sure those days must have been the golden era of flying. sad that I didn’t get to witness it and sorry that you have to live these times having lived those good ones,
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful narrative of your yester years and congratulations on being freshly pressed.
I’m not old enough to remember the “Good Ole Days” of American flight, but my Dad is. He told me he sometimes used to carry his toolbox with him in the cabin – complete with knives, screwdrivers, and hacksaws! The only hijackers any one ever heard about weren’t dangerous, because all they wanted to do was veer over to Cuba and pick up the rest of the family (give or take some contraband). Fast forward to the only time I was lucky enough to step on a plane (2009), and I couldn’t even take my plastic knitting needles. Going through knitting withdrawal wasn’t easy, but so worth it to get out of Hellannoy in April! TX has been where I belong ever since.
We used to bring all kinds of crap on-board. No one batted an eyelash. Hell, the airplines GAVE us our weapons. No one locked the cockpit doors. It was totally chill. I can’t believe you weren’t allowed to bring your plastic knitting needles, but then again I can. Things have been crazy since 9/11. I used to polish my nails when I traveled. Now, I can’t even bring my manicure scissors on the plane let alone the acetone.
I never really asked if I could bring the needles, just didn’t figure it was worth risking considering that was the only time I will get to fly.
Remember when they used to give you a lovely brown bag of food – a big sandwich, chips, apple, and a cookie? I linked up this week with Yeah Write too, and also wrote about flying!
Hi Kat! I’ll bop over to Yeah Write to see your post. How funny that we BOTH wrote about flying! 🙂
Love it. I mean I agree. Air stewards who are male and have waist coats I don’t want a blanket from
Lol you can’t blame me either!
Woohooooooo! Freshly Pressed again! Way to go girl.
Back in the day, our kids got Happy Meals. Of course it may be a good thing they are not offered anymore….Great story!
I was five when my sister (7) and I flew on our own for the first time. The Aerlingus air-hostesses where glamorous and kind, it was an adventure … have loved traveling ever since
Everyone keeps talking about the Aerlingus air-hostesses. I’m starting to think that is a post unto itself. Obviously those ladies knew how to make travel sexy. These days? There’s nothing sexy about air travel. And if there is…we probably shouldn’t know about it.
very true … well the aerlingus ones are still really lovely and kind … and yes they would deserve their own post
Loved it!! 🙂
I remember that I was chastised for asking for a “stewardess.”
She is called a “Flight attendant, sir,” said the mid-twenties young woman/girl with big black lenseless hipster glasses adorning (most) of her face. Of course, that was a very recent memory!
One of my favorite flying memory was the first time I flew out of state. My mother and two sisters and I flew to Wichita Kansas to visit family, and we had a plane change in Denver. It was October, and Denver was socked in with a pretty good snowstorm. We exited the plane onto the tarmac (yes…outside in the snow!) and proceeded to run all over having a snow flight as the airline personnel only mildly paid attention as we did so. We eventually collapsed into a wet, icy, exhausted pile of laughter inside the main terminal. I have little doubt we would not make our flight today if we had done that, as we would have been questioned about our ties with Al-Queda, the Boston bombers and 9/11!
Congrats on being freshly pressed!
I love that memory of you slogging around on the tarmac, getting into a huge snowball fight. It’s a beautiful image, actually. And you’re right. It would never, ever happen today. *weep* Hold onto that memory.
For a flight from Cleveland to Detroit in ’99 (Shortest commercial flight I’ve ever taken, btw) when the gate agent announced the flight, we all trooped through the door on the side of the gate area, down two flights of stairs, out another and across the tarmac to board the plane. It was a Northwest Airlink/Mesaba flight, and the plane was low-slung to the ground. It wouldn’t mate up with the jet-way in Cleveland, but we deplaned in Detroit like normal. Only time I’ve ever crossed the tarmac like that. THAT reminds one of the really “Good old days” of the propeller age of flight. Not that I’m old enough to remember those days, but I’ve seen photos. 😀
Not so long ago in the mid 90’s I remember flying America West from Phoenix to Seattle and getting a wrapped sandwich (on french bread, a GOOD sandwich) with chips.. at no charge. This was the norm for a three hour flight. But I also remember as a kid people smoking on planes. At the time it had no effect on me but I can imagine now it would drive me loco (unless there were free shots of tequila).
A lot has changed since the 90s, that’s for sure. I mean, at least they were still TRYING to feed us back then. Now? We can sit on the tarmac and wait for 4 hours and like it.
I remember the days when if you took off late the pilot gave everyone a free drink. Now you’re lucky if they let you get up to use the restroom.
Geez woman! Freshlypressed AGAIN! You rock and I get to call you a friend. How lucky am I?? I don’t tag my posts either, but I don’t think freshly pressed functions with blogs that are self-hosted, right? Who knows, I get all confuzzled about the ins and outs.
ANYWAY, I used to love flying and when my Husb worked for a commercial airline, it was fun to non-rev to random locations, just because we could.
NOW? After living where we have and having really long flights, I really never want to see the inside of another airplane ANYtime soon.
There are things that happen on flights over 6 hours that just can’t even be mentioned in blog posts!
My best good ol’ days memory was being able to see your family off by walking them to their seat on the plane. Later, it was seeing them off at the gate. These days, I guess, it’s the Park n’ Ride, if you’re lucky.
I do remember dressing up and the silver trays and no one reading over your shoulder as you’re drafting a blog post. Memories.
Ah, the good ol’ days. One of my best flights was a Virgin Atlantic flight where everybody got goodie bags with items to provide fun or comfort. Plus individual video screens for playing games or watching movies. I appreciated the fact that VA was trying to bring back some of the fun of flying. I wish more airlines would do this.
Another good flight: the Captain joking that one of the flight attendants was going to be holding an in-flight aerobics class after takeoff. It made everybody laugh.
Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 😉
I remember being taken up to the cockpit (no, really) to meet the pilot & co-pilot. I received my “wings” pin. I still have TWA and Continental wing pins I got “way back when”!
Did you like it up there? You know, in the cockpit. 😉 It sounds so naughty. Glad you earned your wings.
You are absolutely right. But you are forgetting the air planes that were hijacked to Cuba. There was quite a few. Then ago there were quite a few more crashes. I remember one where one jet hit another and over five hundred died on some island. I also remember landing at an airport in New Jersey and as we came in, I believe we actually hit a gust so bad it moved us side ways as we landed. Yeah, those were the days.
I didn’t mean to imply it was all wine and roses. I mean, Orville and his brother crashed a bunch of times, too. I suppose the Good Ole Days are never wholly good, but you have to find an angle, right? 😉
Nice to meet you! 😉
Your welcome. I would like you to tell me which story I wrote on my blog you like.
Awax- That would be the Tenerife crash of the two 747s (one Pan Am, on KLM) in the Canary islands in 1977. That was not a ‘good old day’ for flying.
Excellent post! I remember when it cost $200 to fly from the east coast to the west coast. When booking a flight, there were so many flight times to choose from. Also, flight attendants weren’t as grumpy because they weren’t worked to death,and they had decent pay. I feel for them. Day in and day out, they have to deal with unruly, selfish people.
I remember flying coast to coast for under $200 bucks! And get this! I remember when I could fly to NYC for $29 (one way) and I could be sure to get back in THE SAME DAY. These days? I wouldn’t bank on making that trip in one day. And if I did, I’m sure every seat would be taken and — yes — every flight attendant would be exhausted as a result of dealing with frustrated fliers who paid a lot of money to get up at the crack of dawn to be treated like criminals. I feel for everyone in the travel industry these days. There is no pretty solution.
I agree! Flying these days can be frustrating for everyone! Planes are cramped, lines are long, and the food is super expensive. The golden age of flying is over. Perhaps there will be a new, better era in air travel. We can only hope!
Sadly I am too young to remember this time but I lived the glamour through the Pan Am tv show if that counts? I like the idea of being an air stewardess… but only if I could have done it back in the day.
Someone else mentioned this comment! I’m going to have to Google the “Pan Am TV show.” Clearly I missed something very special! 😉
Sigh. I’m flying for the first time since 2007 in a couple of weeks (Miami-Las Vegas) and I am DREADING it. My last experience with American Airlines was horrible–they made us wait on the runway in an un-airconditioned plane for an hour because the flight crew hadn’t arrived. This was summer in Miami, mind you. Then the plane had to turn back right after take-off because (they claimed) someone left a cargo door open. All I know is the noise sounded like when the hatch blew off on LOST.
The flight attendants were unbelievably nasty–one looked at me like I asked if I could jump out of the plane when I asked if I could use the bathroom in First Class because the others had long lines.
And the fees for everything now are absurd. I have very long legs. For my flights to and from Vegas, I’m paying extra for a seat with a bit more leg room. (I heard those seats have a whole extra inch of room, too–woo–hoo! My womanly wide hips will only get somewhat numb during the flight, I guess.)
I was so off airline travel for a while I took the train to Orlando a few years ago instead. It was nice, but train travel takes too much time and can get very pricey the further you travel.
I do have to take exception with your memories of airline food–I don’t recall it ever being good. Rubbery chicken and mystery meat. The only good meal I remember having was on a flight to Spain with my family during the 1960s on Al Italia. I asked my mother (I was 9 at the time) if we would get Italian food. She laughed and said, no, we’d get the same old airline food. We were thrilled when we were served ravioli.
It sounds like you’ve had some really unpleasant experiences in the air. No Mile High Club for you, huh? *wink wink*
I have always loved flying… Unfortunately, when I think back on my childhood flying trips, the images stuck in my head are of another little girl projectile vomiting chocolate pudding all over the plane. It was a cross continental trip…and it took me a long time to be able to eat chocolate pudding.
I have a more romantic view of flight as well. People even smoked on planes, though, I don’t miss that.
Lots of people have mentioned the smoking thing. I can’t believe I forgot to mention it in this piece. As a non-smoker, I don’t miss that either! 😉
Wow… I wish I got to enjoy the good ol days!! But I do remember when you didn’t have to pay for your meals. They were included in the flight cost! The fact that I now have to pay an extra $15 for some cheese and crackers is balls.
I haven’t flown in over twenty years. I still remember the good ole days though! Camera phones weren’t even in our conceptualization when I last flew. And yes- his leg was in your space.
YES!! What the hey has happened!!!?
I don’t even want to fly now. I do remember meals. Wow. What a change to a cheap bag of three little pretzels. Great post. Congrats on FP, girl!
Ohhh this is so fabulous… !!! Loved your writing… and congrats on being freshly pressed!!! Superb! Flying is so drab now… and even if you had not written (It’s True) at the end of each para … I wud have believed u !!! Brilliant!!! And now I follow you!!! Cheers!
Love this! Congrats on getting FPd!!!!! So happy for you! I love this post and remember some of the old days of flying. My parents still dress up to fly and are appalled at how people dress to travel nowadays (myself included). I’ll probably be an ole fuddy-duddy one day soon too! (It’s true.) Great post!
What a lovely look back into the past. I really enjoyed this.
I’m 33, so I only barely remember when flying was as you described. I was a child. But I remember it. I remember how much more comfortable and exciting it used to be. I miss it, even though I barely remember it!
I’ve read several articles on flight attendants these days and life pretty much sucks for them, too. Now they’re getting pay cuts due to 9/11, more hours, you get the point.
I don’t like to fly because of their emphasis on safety. You have to choose: machine-that-possibly-will-give-you-cancer-and-definitely-a-minor-privacy-invasion or tough-looking-TSA-agent-who-will-give-you-a-major-privacy invasion. And you hear all about how they want to prevent terrorism and are thinking “What if they get the wrong person?”
It’s just not that good anymore.
Love your post.
Even though I only started flying in the ’80’s (when KLM was just KLM and had not hooked up with the Frogs yet…) I agree with you. Even the sleeping masks and earplugs were of better quality back then.
But the crowded planes with shitty food still get me to explore the world. Love to fly!
I miss the leg room, and the full can of drink, and not paying an exorbitant charge for my checked bags, and I miss a couple of my favorite airlines, like PSA and Air Florida.
I never got to experience the Good ‘Ol Days, but sometimes it can be nice on international flights (by nice I mean better than normal in that you at least get a meal and free wine or beer). I can’t even fathom flying being a luxury experience as often it feels so constricting, but your post has helped me to imagine it just a little bit. Thanks for sharing so I can live vicariously through your memories!
Right now, I’m going through a sinus attack that’s threatening to blow out my left Superior maxially…and when bone is stressed from pressure…you KNOW that hurts!
My sinuses will always prevent me from flying, anything over about 15000 feet-ish. So airliners are right out.
I used to feel kinda bad about that–not anymore.
I’m only 29, so I wasn’t around in the heyday of air travel, but have seen programs about how it used to be.
But these days…I’d rather canoe across the Atlantic than try flying it.
Loved the Post…and it made my hungry!! 😀
Who cares about flying? You’re 29, girl. Enjoy your firm thighs! 😉
I do! Giving up driving when I moved in with hubby to his house, best thing! Small city (100,000) so it’s just less trouble to walk, rather than waste time on parking and all that–also, MUCH better way to socialize than yelling out of a car window. 😀 Also, window shopping and meeting the canine friends of various neighbours. 😀 Besides, always better view while travelling LC on a train anyways. 😀
Good for you! Out here in the ‘burbs is no place for a pretty young thang. I’d have to drive if I wanted to catch a bus. I’m serious. 😉
Oh, I know what the modern crime rate and such is. Husband spent 4+ years training, teaching and instructing me in how to Fight. I’ve had to use what he taught me more than a few times. Theses days, women are not safe and must do all they can to protect themselves.
I wish I could have gone flying in the Good Old Days. Sounds fun
I agree with every word you’ve said out here…Loved the post! It reminded me how Air Travel was considered a ‘luxury’ once upon a time!
Yes! I remember the good ole days of flying…Nowadays folks don’t even dress for flying..I’m still old skool and for some reason dress the part..As IF flying is actually going somewhere special LOL..Just recently flew to Phoenix and the noise of the A/C on the first plane?? I wondered IF anyone else was thinking the thoughts I was thinking..I kept wondering is that the engine making ALL that noise?? I began to look to make sure I knew where the exits were..AS if; I could bail ..Lol, lol! Seriously I wonder if they’re truly doing maintenance checks as often as need be..Seems like its all about how many they can SQUEEEZE onto a flight to make money…Used to not be a rare thing to get a straight through flight, right? Now just going 4 hours might have a pit-stop somewhere 9 hours OUT of the way; just to get a full load. Pfft..Enjoyed your write..2 thumbs UP
I still remember my first time travelling in a plane. I was six and ecstatic. Bet my daughter will wonder “what’s the big deal?”
I’ve flown several times in the last 5 years or so, but only once before that, About 16 years ago. That flight was from Melbourne Australia to LA so it was pretty exciting, and I was very small then so didn’t take up a lot of space(hence probably being quite comfy even in a small seat)
I do remember sitting in the aisle on the floor tickling the feet of my friend quite roughly while we were chatting and wondering why she was wiggling her toes but not reacting with her face. Well, they weren’t her feet, were they? Needless to say, the guy sitting behind her who had his legs stretched out wasn’t too impressed with me.
Then, I took a travel sickness pill and basically passed out for a few hours until we had almost landed. I awoke pretty groggy and gave my poor Mum a heart attack when We landed amd I called her and told her I’d been knocked out on the plane on the other side of the world. I was 15, and that drug company has since gone under for distributing dirty pills :/
Not really about differences, but i constantly say that when I am a rich and famous author, I will ALWAYS be very very selfish and greedy and fly first class for tours and travel. I WANT that old leg space, and seats that turn into beds and all that stuff. Maybe I should get my own plane and suggest it be built and used to the specs of the good old days???
Oh yes. When I’m a rich and famous author I plan to have a private airplane, too. Now THAT’s funny, right? 🙂
Not funny, seriously possible 🙂
I know a lot of authors, but I don’t know any authors who own their own private jets. But dare to dream darlin’. Dare. To. Dream. 😉
See you will hate me, I have 1,000,000 miles on two (2) airlines. I have over 500,000 on another and 200,000 on another. On the airline I travel the most, I buy my first class seat always. I know how to do it so it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg. I have not traveled in Coach in 15 years, except when traveling in a puddle jumper.
Does that sound snotty of me? I know it does but I cannot abide sitting that close to strangers.
Twenty-five years ago when I started traveling every week things were very different. It was easy to get through airports. People, passengers and flight attendants, counter people everyone were nicer. Even the drunks on the planes were somehow usually easier to contend with. Now everyone is simply downright mean. US Airlines are horrible. European Airlines, with the exception of British Airways aren’t much better. If I could travel on the Asian airlines only I would, they are still what air travel once was.
It used to be so much more fun! And there were more mashed potatoes.
Space, the silver tray, cloth napkins, real cutlery and of course not having to show up 3 or 4 hours before check in for security reasons …that is what I miss most!
did you ever find out what happened to the pilot? lol; how in the world do you lose a pilot? hmm; in the grand scheme of things i haven’t been flying that long so i can’t really give a story of back in the day… but i do remember, not so long ago, being blessed enough to be on a flight that was nearly empty, for a change, and i had two whole seats next to me totally empty and it was nice to not feel so cramped. it was really nice and relaxed.
Now that you mention it, we never found out what happened to the pilot — what the delay was all about. I don’t know he was passed out in the bathroom after an all night drinking binge or if he just couldn’t find the gate or what. It’s kind of creepy now that I think about it. We assume our pilots sleep during their off-time but, as a few of the earlier commenters have intimated, that isn’t always the case. *bites nails*
I remember the good old days, I lived them. I worked for TWA when it was romantic to work for the airlines( 1968-1981). You dressed up to travel and on cross country flights you got two meals and sometimes a snack plus a movie! Thanks for the post. I’m glad I ran across your blog
Oooooh! So you were one of THEM! Have you ever written about those glamorous days? I’d love to read your words. If you have will you send me the link? 😉
Not yet I haven’t but if I do I’ll be sure to send the material your way. Thanks for the interest
Interestingly, I recently made a blog post about one of the many unpleasant things about flying… AND… my current Work-In-Progress has quite a few flying adventures in it, although long before our time. But I’m not here to plug my own work (even though I kinda just did).
My first airplane flight was at about age 3, and it was on a Lockheed Constellation. We used to fly out of Burbank (now Bob Hope), and I can remember when your entire family could walk right up to the gate to see you off, or greet you when you arrived. Food was delicious and free, and there were stewardesses who were pretty and friendly. I don’t miss the clouds of smoke that would fill the cabin when the light went off, but I do miss the glamor of it all.
It’s all still better than six hours in the back of a C-130!
I remember when your whole family could walk you up to the gate, too. In fact, one of my favorite memories involves a beautiful, young Italian couple who held each other and wept right at the gate. EVen after the plane took off, the man sat in those blue chairs and cried. Truly, one of the most romantic moments I’ve ever witnessed. I hope they ended up together. I hope you finish that WIP! 🙂
I loved being able to meet people at the gate. So exciting!
Though I seem to recall a trip to Boston as a small child where first our pilot, then all of our luggage containing our Christmas presents were misplaced.
I agree with this post so much. I recently flew from the USA to Chile, Chile to Guatemala and Guatemala back to the USA. I never look forward to flying, it’s cramped and I always arrive at my destination cranky and hungry because there is never enough time to find food between flights. You’d think with more people traveling for work they’d try to make flying back into the experience it used to be. At least on the plane itself.
only Emirates, among the ones I have flown seems acceptable nowadays, but then certain stewards (male ones) did become abusive in one of my Emirates flights (Beijing-Dubai) The plane was having turbulence and Mr. Juan yelled at me to get seated when I was headed to the washroom.
once upon a time, you are right, they did not use to yell at us.
Ah yes, Mr. Juan. He must have had a rough day in the sky. Glad you made it there and back in one piece.
I get a fuzzy warm feeling re-reading your airline post 🙂
I took my first flight in 1985. It was from Singapore to New Zealand on Air New Zealand. I was only five and didn’t remember much aside from spilling orange juice over my nice outfit (and my mum scolding me for doing so and eventually fussing over me), and two cute boys with blond hair who got to hold wide candy-filled baskets at the exit for alighting passengers to dip into. No crab legs or key lime pie, but it was a lot more fun than what we have nowadays!
remember the book “coffee, tea, or me” … a “memoir” from a stewardess about all her hijinks in the air & elsewhere… very “Mad Men.” There were kids meals, and airline pins, and coloring books; there was leg room…and yes, the air frequently was blue with smoke. That part I don’t miss.
Southwest flights from Austin to Dallas or Houston in the 80s- alcoholic beverages were served before takeoff, and a second in the air. 2 free drinks on a flight taking 30ish minutes.
I bet if stewardess were paid on the tip system the smiles would come back.
I’m terrified of flying. However, it used to be terrifying, roomy and glamorous. Now, it’s just terrifying, horrifying,claustrophobic and ghettoesque-ish.
Wow, I don’t even remember a time like this, because it was before I was born.
By the time I came around, at least there were meals served on planes – for FREE. And I once carried on two bottles of Bordeaux.
I do remember the meals, and I miss them, even when they were kinda crappy. Like the glutinous disc of eggs I was served on a flight from the Midwest to Washington, DC, my senior year of high school. I was nauseous because I had just started birth control pills. I was green until Virginia. But I got to keep my shoes on.
My favorite post-9/11 story is the time I was pregnant and moving back to the Midwest from Las Vegas. I was flying with my 2-year-old son, my sister, and my sedated cat. Guess who gets pulled aside for special inspection? Also: they made me take the drugged cat OUT of the carrier so they could check around her fat ass for contraband. Ah, glamorous air travel.
yes I do. I recently traveled domestically in the U.S. and as I was standing in line at a Starbucks I saw a Virgin Atlantic stewardess (I still call them that) and I had to compliment her because she was actually put together. By the way I still dress for flying.
I remember the little wings they’d give the kids. It’s surely not as hospitable these days, but several years ago when we flew to England, my then 3yo son was given an ice cream sundae by a flight attendant as a surprise because it was an overnight flight and he was still awake at 2am. I thought that was so sweet!
I remember security allowing your family members through even if they weren’t flying, so you could properly say goodbye. That, and just walking through the detectors (with your shoes on!).
This story isn’t about how wonderful flying used to be….but rather how fun it often was! I was on a Southwest Air flight back to college in the ’80’s. As we were taxiing away from the terminal and the male flight attendant was giving us the usual instructions, he went on to say, “And, we have a special guest on board with us today! The star of stage and screen, “Star Trek’s” Leonard Nimoy!” We all began clapping and craning our necks around to see where Spock was sitting. I didn’t see him but kept looking, until the flight attendant said, “And, I’m happy to announce: April Fool’s!” It was, of course, April the 1st. We all laughed and nudged each other, and smiled pretty much the rest of the entire (short) flight. I haven’t seen such good-natured fun in the air since then!
I never flew in ‘the good old days’, I’m a little young, however I used to work for an airline and I travel all the time so have experienced hundreds of flights and a bunch of airlines. If only air travel could still be like what you describe from the 1970’s I would fly even more!!
Hhahhaha, I am very impressed. It’s different feeling after reading such a useful information written in a “light” way. Nice one!
Love this post! The only bad thing I remember about flying in the 70s is the smoking – it didn’t matter that there was a no smoking section, it was smokey everywhere, and that was rough for a nonsmoker, especially on SF to Europe trips. But EVERYTHING else was so much better, as you say!!
I have a set of Air New Zealand cutlery in my cupboard from my Mum who borrowed them on a permanent basis when she flew to Texas when she was 18. They are just a bit smaller so are perfect for little hands.
I LOVE this entry! I just watched a PanAm documentary about the company, and what travel and accommodations were like in the 70’s. Definitely a far cry from what it is now! You’ve got a new follower in me, looking forward to reading the rest.
Hi David! Thanks for the follow. Be patient with me. It’s summer so I’m being kind of relaxed about content. I’ve actually got a contest going right now where people (mainly bloggers) have been sending me fabulous handwritten letters to send to my son who is at at summer camp for 7 weeks this year — and I’m posting them here. Eventually there will be a winner. I’m developing new content for September, so sit tight. It’s nice to meet you.
I remember my Grandfather flying south from NY with his suitcase clinging together to hold 80lbs of frozen meats and sausages from his favorite deli for his winter in Florida. It was so…normal for me. Flying has lost all the comfort and certainly doesn’t leave too much legroom or otherwise for the comforts of home.
Thanks for the post. Every time I fly now I actually expect a delay or hassle of some sort. I must say, though, a couple years ago I flew on Alitalia and it was a completely different experience than flying on a US airline. I think in air travel, as in other areas, we’ve fallen behind the rest of the world. Cheers!
Renée! Hellooooo! I can’t believe you have responded to all of these amazing comments. You are truly becoming a Blogging Goddess … and no wonder … your posts and responses are THE best and you deserve to have a gigunda following! I better make a trip around the lake to take you for lunch soon before I have to get in line behind all your other fans!
Now I forget what I am commenting on… oh yeah … flying. Right you are about the good old days. Flying was something special! Today not so much. Having said that, I looooove heading to the airport! I don’t care what I have to put up with, before or during the flight, because I know I’m going somewhere special. I would stand the entire way if need be!
I had not flown since the September 11th attacks. Not out of fear, but because I had no reason to fly. In fact, I had only flown a few times in my life, probably less than ten. But in spring of 2011 I needed to get from Las Vegas to Los Angeles quick, so I booked a flight. This was when the body-scanning technology was being debated and the TSA had put a moratorium on using it and any other extreme screening measures. It was just like pre-9/11 flying. I just walked through the metal detector and straight on to the plane. We got there in 30 minutes without incident. The only difference that I noticed between now and then was that I was able to watch the Simpsons this time. I haven’t flown since.
It’s not so bad. Some of us happen to enjoy a little probing now and then.
Oh, let’s be clear: I’m all for probing. If you hang around my place long enough, you’ll see what I mean. But when I’m getting ready to take a flight, less is more. 😉 Thanks for dropping by my place when I was FP’d. 😉
Yep. Unfortunately, these good old days are gone. Do you really have to pass an x-ray, as part of the security check? Do they x-ray your body or just the luggage? Isn’t that harmful for your health? What if you travel frequently? Do they take copies of your fingertips? I am asking these silly questions, because here in Europe, security control is not so strict, but its getting “better and better” with every passing year…
Hi GG: Here in the US, we generally walk through different types of scanners that has been declared safe. But who really knows? And yes, the old x-ray machines were banned banned as a result of the cumulative risk to frequent flyers. Currently, we are not fingerprinted; however, we are required to provided documentation for all passengers — including children. I think that is standard practice in the West these days.
I remember walking right up to a gate with my friends, sitting around and chit-chatting until it was time to hop on the plane. No questions asked. The only thing that anyone ever wanted was my money and my boarding pass. 9/11 changed things forever, that’s for sure.
Quite sad. But thank you very much for the clarifications! We were curious to know. Foreigners travelling to the US are fingerprinted, though. ” 9/11 changed things forever” – so true. Under the disguise of “ensuring our safety” we lose more and more of our civil rights everyday. This, actually, is the main “damage” of terrorism, cause it affects EVERYBODY. Not that we underestimate ot neglect the tragedy of the real victims, of course. Thank you very much for the reply!
Past – is life without scum. There were a few, but most were tolerable.
General info. and opinion: Cabin pressure does not stay at the ground level you took off at. Please eat and drink sparingly and only on ascent or not at all. So someone told you “I got sick from recirculated airplane air” — they leak like a ___! Try this thought: as you return to higher pressure ground level air, you’ve been drinking sweet soda, maybe a bagel, starchy, normal bacteria everywhere in your system. Aahh, wait, remember your ears popped some on ascent. Now you are returning to earth. That “goop” gets pushed into your inner ear. Vacation ruined– inner ear infection in Hawaii.
Yes I remember the good old days, I remember as a child flying to America from UK and been given a plastic model of the aircraft and a look around the cockpit!
Once back in the 1980’s they had mixed up our booking and my Father got to sit behind pilot all the way to Greece, he said it was the best flight he had ever been on in his life! Can you imagine that happening now? It would make the news papers and the staff would of been sacked! And get this! He even smoked his pipe in the cockpit and no one died!
In fact everyone was smoking and there wasn’t any air rage. The oxygen in the cabin was fresher I’m sure because they didn’t recycle the living day lights out of it like they do today!
Free bar on long haul and no one roled around binge drinking and everyone clapped when we landed! They were the days! Never to be seen again! RIP fun air travel… Gone but never forgotten.
Oh my gosh. Everything about air travel used to be better. We used to be treated like valued passengers. Now I feel more like an inconvenience who’s trying to make the flight attendants’ lives easier by not moving a muscle.
And didn’t the bathrooms used to be bigger???
Better the pilot than the hydraulic fluid. Sunday we returned to the departure gate because it was registered as low in one of the three systems.
Ha ha great read funny true and a
I’m from a more recent generation and have only seen comfort in the movies. To be honest, watching the way it used to be is a bit like watching Cinderella- fantastic, magical, and unreal- also classy. With the mention of flying being “sexy”, I wonder what can fit its place nowadays. “Higher end” celebrity jets? Chauffeurs in cars? Black tie events? I wonder…
My mom was a life-sized barbie doll – with huge bee-hive clip on hair (60’s) ~ she couldn’t be married, so when she met (on a flight) and married my dad, she had to quit….. that made me smile and thin of that ….lol
Yes indeed it is a little sad. Maybe with all that new technology they’re rolling out now we can hope for a big turn around in the comfort levels and customs protocols. I’m sure with a little more thought and some new ideas from the airlines we could find air travel more enjoyable again!
I used to love to fly, but now choose not to for many of the issues you mentioned. The biggest reason for me is that I don’t feel any safer flying today then I did before 9/11, just feel violated and then add the delays and all the other BS, no thanks. I’ll drive.
You could also smoke! Im glad they left that one to history.