Archive for Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Air travel a curse, blessing

October 10, 2012

If any mode of transportation has changed in the past few decades, it is air travel. Frankly, it isn’t as easy or as much fun as it was in the 1960s or 1970s. In fact, now it can be a bit of a hassle.

In the olden and maybe golden days of air travel, a trip was exciting. There was nothing more thrilling than going to an airport and boarding a plane, and it was a lot simpler than today. If you remember Municipal Airport, now Downtown Airport, you stopped at the curb, unloaded your bags and went into the lobby. You quickly checked in and when it was time, you walked across the tarmac and boarded the airplane via steps. It certainly was a leisurely pace.

Of course, now it is much more of a problem.

In the 1970s, Mid-Continent Airport was the standard of convenience. Now, it has been outdated by security. Most airports now require long walks from security to the gates.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, air travel was a special event. Men always wore suits and ties and women were always well dressed. Now, anything goes as far as clothing is concerned. I heard an old-timer grouse that getting on board an airplane is like riding a flying bus.

The passengers were served by “stewardesses” not flight attendants. All the stewardesses were attractively dressed women and they were in one of the most glamorous professions for a woman. The failed TV show Pan Am gave a good view of the way they dressed.

Since at that time many people had never flown, they gave a detailed description of the take-off procedure. When the plane landed they pointed out that the engines would be reversed causing a loud noise, but not to worry this was only to slow down the aircraft.

The biggest difference came while you were in the air. Airlines served full meals, which were usually pretty good. I think when I flew to Australia in 1968, we had three breakfasts. Whenever we landed, it was usually early morning as we chased the sun across the Pacific, so we were served another round of the scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls.

That has all changed now. On most flights you get a small, and I mean small, snack, along with a soft drink or coffee. On overseas flights however, you still receive a meal. One thing I like is that you can bring your own food aboard now, and that used to be prohibited.

In the old days, in Kansas City, if possible, everyone flew TWA, which was our “hometown airline.” TWA employees were extremely loyal, and I think we all took pride in it. It’s sad, but the demise of TWA was a tremendous loss to the metro area.

Sometimes it is easy to forget just how far aviation has come in a short period of time. When the Wright brothers made their first flight, the top speed they reached was 30 miles per hour.

While we may cuss the inconvenience of modern air travel, it remains the best way to take a trip and I’m looking forward to our next trip since flying puts the world within our reach.

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