Airline Travel Changed Over The Years


I had to fly out West for a wedding this week, and it reminded me of how commercial flying has changed significantly, since 2001 when the 911 security measures were implemented, and the late 1970s, when the airline industry was deregulated.

40 years ago, only a handful of large carriers, like United and American, monopolized the air. Now, many companies make flying competitive, a change for the good.

In the past, flights were booked through local travel agents. Now, everyone buys online. No longer do we see passengers running through airports, 10 minutes before departure, scrambling around at the last second to get onboard. Those days are gone. Today, we go through the dreaded airport security. You know the drill. Take off your shoes. Empty your pockets. The laptop goes in a separate bin. Be prepared for a body scan, or maybe a pat down. So much for the friendly skies; say hello to the airport security rent-a-cops.

In the old days, bags were checked and sent into the cargo hold, as only a few stuffy businessmen carried briefcases on board. Now, everyone packs light. Almost no one pays extra to check a bag.

Before deregulation, planes would often leave half full. Today, every seat is taken, as the airlines enlist volunteers to stay behind, because they overbooked. It’s crowded, but much more efficient.

Travel seemed to be much more of a celebration 40 years ago. It seemed like there was always at least one party in flight. People drank alcohol more often, probably because airlines gave it away to create a festive atmosphere. Now, we quietly sit and watch TV.

In the day, flight attendants, known as stewardesses, were young pretty females, forced to adhere to weight restrictions. Now, Hugh Heffner’s playboy days are over. Gay men now serve the drinks.

Although deregulation pushed ticket prices down, it also destroyed the food service. You might get coffee now, or a soft drink, but descent food? Forget about it. On a Soviet Aeroflot flight in 1983, as I boarded in Moscow, they gave me a bag lunch, and I remember thinking that was bad. Now, I am not so sure.

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