It Used to Be Fun to Fly

Orange_Beer Thoughts_2012-08-17

2015-10-06 – It used to be fun to fly. You may think that the degradation of the flying experience is due to security measures taken after 9/11. But I’m older than you. So I remember flying before 9/11. It was already awful. The 9/11 measures only took the flying experience from awful to abysmal.

If flying had suddenly gone from wonderful to abysmal, something might have been done to fix the system. But the degradation has been gradual.

The first major event in the degradation was the deregulation of the airline business that occurred in the 1980s. Before then, competition was restricted in certain ways. Prices were high, service was luxury service, and airlines were squeezed by high fuel costs. De regulation allowed airlines to take cost-cutting measures and engage in fare wars that reduced the cost of travel. My first flight to Los Angeles in the early eighties was a little over $200. I could get a flight today for nearly the same price.

If you want luxury flying, though, get a private plane.

Service has become so nasty that people are willing to pay extra for fake luxury. If you buy a fist class ticket, you get an extra two inches of space. You get to board first so you can appear relaxed as the economy passengers file past you. You get to eat nasty airplane food without pulling out your wallet. And you exit the plane first. Unfortunately for you, it’s the same plane as everyone else. For this, you get to pay two, three, or more times what the economy passenger is paying. You don’t get to your destination any sooner. Economy travel, in the days before the degradation, was better than first class is now.

I am on a flight right now. I bought a sandwich before I boarded the plane. I am hungry now. No one is being served yet even in first class, but I can open my sandwich and eat. So that’s what I’m going to do.

* * *

In 1974, I flew a flight from Rome, Italy to New York that was nearly empty. I flew economy, but I took full advantage of the extra seats. I had two seats on the right side of the plane for my library. I read The Exorcist on that flight. I had an entire center row where I could stretch out and sleep. And I had another pair of seats for all my meals and to watch the movie.

This will never happen again.

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