With more intrusive airport security procedures, complaints about hidden airline charges and cost-cutting, it’s no surprise that travellers have become disillusioned with the state of air travel today.
But you can usually turn a negative into a positive, and perceived drops in airline standards have in turn reignited our love affair with the past, as we hanker for the “golden age” of flying to make a comeback.
Many of us believe air travel was most glamorous in the 70s, the early years of the commercial jet, when flying was a pastime preserved for those who could afford it, powder rooms in the cabins were the norm, white-gloved flight attendants were eager to please and the journey to your destination was as much fun as arriving.
If you’re more of an optimist, the democratisation of air travel, helped by deregulation in the US (in the late 70s), in Europe (in the mid 90s) and competition from low-cost airlines has made flying affordable today, particularly for those in impoverished countries.
And if you’re an economy passenger on the highly rated Singapore Airlines or Emirates, both service-led airlines, or enjoy the extra space and silent takeoff on the world’s biggest passenger plane, you may even argue that we are in the midst of a “golden age” of air travel.
But in the scheme of things, there’s no denying that we have lost and gained perks in the skies.
In no particular order, here’s our own list of aspects of air travel we miss, which are now confined to our vintage scrap book:
Visits to the cockpit
We were all young once, but even as adults, visiting the flight deck was a buzz. Of course that all changed post 9/11 when the doors to the pilot’s office were not just slammed shut, but reinforced.
Dressing for the occasion
In the 60s and 70s, flying was an occasion and airline ‘guests’ would dress up to the nines, just as they were would to dine at a five-star restaurant.
The 747 Piano Bar
In the early days of jet travel, some airliners entertained within the confines of the plane’s dedicated piano bar.
Concorde: RIP 1976-2003
Despite not having the world’s best safety record, Concorde’s passengers were treated to champagne and the finest in-flight cuisine, while flying at twice the speed of sound. Supersonic travel took the flying appeal to new heights, unless you were on the receiving end of its infamous sonic boom…
Free ticket changes (in economy)
There used to be such a thing as unlimited date changes for travellers flying on the cheapest base fare economy ticket. For us, it led to extended holidays, just because airlines could facilitate our late return without charging us colossal fees.
Dedicated smoking sections
For the smokers among you, this one would probably top your list. In the good old days, many planes had their own designated smoking cabins (and they still existed in the 90s), certainly making the flight a lot easier for many.
Paper plane tickets
Waiting for your plane tickets to arrive through the post used to be (almost) as exciting as waiting for Santa to show up with your Christmas presents. Opening the envelope stamped by your favourite airline meant the countdown to your holiday had just begun.
The cumbersome case
These brick-shaped cases were never ranked highly in the fashion stakes, but didn’t they make travel look so civilised?
Reliance on the travel agent
Before the internet allowed us to manage our own flights at the touch of a button, travel agents were considered the real PA’s of the skies.
Free inflight food (short-haul, economy flights)
In-flight service with a smile seems to have been wiped off the menu. We remember the days when pre-flight snacks, full breakfasts and tray sets were all part of the service, even on short-haul flights in economy.
What a few of our readers had to say:
Roman Gerodimos: “I miss being treated like a gentleman rather than a would-be criminal or Ryanair scratchcard customer.”
Renee Emms: “If I was old enough I would say I miss the travel bags you used to be given. A friend of mine has an old Qantas one. You really didn’t need to pack in those days as they provided everything you could ever need except your clothes!”
What aspects of air travel do you miss? Leave your comments below.