My first flight was courtesy of the army more than thirty years ago. I remember the airline had plenty of staff because at least two or three of the members came and sat with the newly enlisted personnel and talked with us. The refreshments never stopped. The seats were very comfy too, but that could have been because I was thirty pounds lighter then, too.
Back in the eighties, I flew international and it was rather glamorous. Flying wasn’t cheap compared to the average wage and those who flew international got top notch service. Once again, no issue about seat width and you could recline without starting a war.
After 911 and the invention of the TSA, I was pulled out of the security line. First time it happened, I was traveling to a funeral for the day. It happened five more times. Later, I was told by a former TSA agent that they must pull so many people out of line per hour. They prefer women because they tend to be less hostile.
While waiting for my flight, I noticed people were asked to give up their seat along with more people flying standby. The plane door closes thirty minutes before the flight departure, which leaves those who sprinted through the airport very disappointed. Once I was even bumped from a flight.
Bumped is the wrong word since they cancelled the flight. My only option was to fly standby the next day. An airline employee informed me if I got there early enough that I’d get a seat. At the gate, I nervously checked in and explained I was flying standby. An employee informed me that as soon I was seated in the plane, the late arriving person who originally had that seat was out of luck. Once seated, I could not be removed from the plane.
The climate of flying has changed in the last thirty years. The biggest changes include the…passengers and baggage fees. There is always a half dozen people in coach who mistakenly consider the flight is just for them. They have oversized bags they cram in the overhead bins taking up all the room. They also stay on their phones delaying takeoff. Other patrons, especially those in the rear of the plane, seldom receive service since these demanding people insist on perks such as free alcoholic drinks. No surprise, the formerly friendly stewards appeared both weary and aggravated.
Because people know there isn’t going to be enough bin room, there is aggression at the gate to get on earlier. The smaller seats force people to share more body contact with strangers than they had with their spouse in the last six months.What surprised me the most was how nasty people were to their fellow passengers.
On a flight to Germany, our plane sat on the tarmac for thirty minutes, not allowing us to disembark and make the transfer in an efficient manner. The eight of ran through the airport to reach the departing plane. The larger seats were three across, but the man on the aisle seat was still unhappy we made the plane and didn’t hesitate to say so several times and attempted to block our entry to our seats until called on it by the surrounding passengers.
As for the United incident with the doctor being pulled off board, it’s inexcusable, but it reminds me of our flight from India. When we flew United from the US, we were treated very well. When I asked for water, the attendant snuck me an entire liter of water. On the way back from India, we were probably the only non-Indians aboard, except for the crew. We were served a spicy meal as soon as we were aloft. When I asked for water, I was told there was none. Even though, I saw an attendant walk by with liters of water.
Since we had paid to upgrade we were served first. Plenty of people requested water after us with no luck. The flight to the United States ran about 1400 for the cheapest seat and yet no one could get water. Because Indian security was twice as tight as ours, any water bought at the airport was taken away. As soon as the trays were cleared, the attendants all vanished into the upper crew cabin.
I have no issue with the crew sleeping part of the 15-hour flight, but not all at once. If they slept, they managed to do it for thirteen hours only re-appearing to get people ready for landing. When I expressed my disappointment about the flight to United, their response was these things happen. I often wonder if the treatment we received was because the overwhelming of majority of passengers were Indian. Unlike Americans, they almost never make a fuss.
Has the climate changed for air travel? It has, but both ways too. Plenty of passengers are so rude that one Jet Blue steward bailed even before the plane took off. There are less attendants to do the work. Yes, the seats have gotten narrower and closer together. Attendants may not be smiling as much because they never know when a passenger might go ballistic when they must enforce a rule to charge for use of a germy blanket.
Now, I’ve had several wonderful flights on Delta, American Airlines, and Southwest. Some of the best flights have been on tiny puddle jumper planes with one attendant. I will continue to fly because it is still faster than driving. How about you?
Here's a slideshow was flying used to be like. Sigh.