Top 5 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Miss How Airlines Used to Be

Oh, the good old days.  I’m not sure there’s an industry where people look back at the past and cry more about how great it used to be, and how terrible it is now.  Oh, for those halcyon days where everyone sat in first class and ate only the finest cuisine prepared by a Congress of France’s great chefs.

Oh wait, that’s not how it was.  Today I bring you the Top 5 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Miss How Airlines Used to Be

-    Smoking.  I’ll never understand how the same people who were so brilliant that they could get a hunk of metal to fly through the air for 12 hours could also say, “Sure, stick 200 people in a small tube and let them smoke for hours on end.”  I can barely imagine sitting in a restaurant where people are allowed to smoke anymore.  Can you picture a flight to Tokyo?  And you miss those days?

-    Food.  How is it possible that people complain that airline food is gone?  I think the Marx brothers were making fun of airline food 70 years ago.  Let’s stop pretending that the “steak” and “chateaubriand” that was served on your Pan Am flight to Frankfurt was any good.  It wasn’t.

-    Entertainment.  See that flickering light 35 rows ahead of you showing Smokey and the Bandit II?  That’s your inflight entertainment.

-    Frequent Flyer Miles.  In 1972, do you know how many miles you earned for your flight from Miami to LA?  That’s right, zero.  And how many double elite qualifying miles you earned on that flight?  Correct, zero.  And how many unlimited upgrades you received because you had elite status?  Yes, zero.  I hope you enjoyed not getting any free first class flights to Europe as well.

-    Fares.  You liked the government setting fares between Cleveland and Miami and telling you which airlines could fly there?  And that they weren’t allowed to discount those flights?  Flights cost much, much more (don’t even count all the free flights you’re earning with miles), and discounts were rare (there were no $9 Spirit fares to Ft. Lauderdale).  You may miss those great days in 1972, but you couldn’t have afforded to fly very much.  Which is why what most people my age remember about traveling is sitting in the back of a station wagon for 11 hours.


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  1. Not to mention planning and booking your flight on the web versus using the phone or your travel agent! There is more than a grain of truth in your Top 5 reasons. Nice job.

  2. Oh man – how did I forget about that? I remember spending literally hours on the phone with People Express…blah.

  3. Smoking was still allowed on airplanes after frequent flyer programs — and the upgrade game — began.

    I remember upgrades being a mixed blessing. The first class seats left were usually the ones in the smoking row, or the row in front. You prayed there were no smokers on your flight. If there were, you turned on your air nozzles full blast and pointed them in the direction of the smoker. The day they banned smoking on airplanes was one happy day for me!

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