Do you remember when air travel was actually fun? You probably have to be of a certain vintage to respond in the affirmative but let me assure you there was a time when getting on a plane was more than just a means to an end.
Last week, after running the gauntlet at Canada’s busiest airport, and then waiting almost an hour-and-a-half for luggage to arrive at the carousel at this end, I couldn’t help but reminisce about a different era, a time when getting there was almost as much fun as the destination itself.
I recognize that memories aren’t always accurate, particularly the further back you go, but there’s no denying that air travel has been in a race to the bottom for several decades now, which has made it more affordable, relatively speaking, but has sucked the life out of what used to be a pleasurable experience.
I certainly don’t blame the airlines as they’re simply doing what’s necessary to compete in a dog-eat-dog industry, which has meant passengers have emerged victorious price-wise but have lost on just about everything else. If you have no frame of reference to how it once was, you simply accept air travel for what it is today, but for those of us old enough to know different, it’s hard not to compare it to yesteryear.
A kid of the 1970s, I can still remember several flights we took during that time, mainly because of the much-anticipated perks that came along with them: the colouring books and crayons, playing cards, comic books, unlimited pop and snacks (parents willing) and the ceremonial pinning of the captain’s wings. For an eight-year-old, things couldn’t get much better, although it could be difficult to watch the movie on the screen at the front of the cabin because, at four feet tall, your view was invariably obstructed by the seat ahead.
That challenge aside, you felt pampered when you were on a plane. Whatever you needed to make your trip more enjoyable, the flight attendants were there to oblige. Looking to take a nap? There would be blankets and pillows at the ready. Can you imagine asking a flight attendant for a blanket and pillow nowadays? You might as well be asking if they’d let you land the plane.
Tray table in place, I can remember the anticipation as the food cart inched closer. They weren’t necessarily kid-friendly meals, but I do recall the trays being compartmentalized, so nothing you didn’t like was touching something you did. And these were full-blown meals, complete with dessert and eaten using honest to goodness silverware. There were even individual salt-and-pepper shakers.
After the meal trays had been picked up, there would be hot beverages for the adults, perhaps even some after-dinner liqueurs, while the kids would not-so-patiently wait for the individually-wrapped candies to make an appearance.
I realize all of this, including those moist towels that were always too hot to touch, comes with a price, which the vast majority of consumers, myself included, are no longer willing to pay, but it doesn’t cost anything to daydream about what used to be while you’re crammed into an ever-shrinking seat.