Ciao: ‘Getting there is half the fun’

BILL KLAUBER

Remember the old airline commercial that “Getting there is half the fun.” Well, with flying the way it is today, I can’t stand any more of that fun. Give me the good old days of flying.

I remember my first airplane flight and no, it wasn’t with the Wright Brothers. It was in 1950 and I was flying from New York to Parkersburg, West Virginia, en route to Athens, Ohio.

No one in my family had flown anywhere much less to West Virginia. In those days the expression was “anything west of the Hudson was Bridgeport.” I don’t understand the exact connection, but I am sure it was not a compliment to Bridgeport, but certainly West Virginia was west of the Hudson.

It was a big deal and I can still remember the taxi ride to LaGuardia Airport where my mother repeatedly told me not to be nervous. Actually I was looking forward to the adventure and I was dressed in the same suit I had worn to my high school graduation. In fact all of the passengers were well decked out as was the custom in those days.

Well, we certainly have “come a long way, baby,” as the expression goes. Today, “anything goes” when it comes to dress on an airplane. You can only hope that your “neighbors” don’t bring greasy food aboard with the accompanying odors or that they don’t have any accompanying odors themselves.

Of course in the good old days, flying there was, in fact, a lot more fun. There were no security checks to go through, not even a security checkpoint.

You just showed up at the ticket counter to check your baggage (no cost of course), then went directly to the gate, boarded when the announcement was made, fastened your seat belt, listened to the stewardess’ safety message, sat back and relaxed and enjoyed all sorts of complimentary food and beverage, no matter what class you were sitting in.

Not only do I recall that all flight attendants were female, but even planes were female. One airline, I think either Capitol or National (both now defunct) even gave female names to the planes, and announced that you were “riding Sally” (no relation to Sally Ride) or “Jenny” or whatever the name printed on the nose of the plane. Pretty suggestive, eh?

All of that started to change with the deregulation of the airline industry during the Carter Administration and boy has flying changed since then. Not only did Jimmy lower the lights in the White House, but his deregulation lowered the fares on airplane flights.

Prices became competitive and some airlines even reduced fares to $99 on some of its routes (Peoples Express, for example) . Other low cost airlines started up, but quickly disappeared altogether (Independence Air, for example).

Airline mergers and route sharing have become commonplace. Deregulation created competition for slots at major airports which became fierce. Routes that once were restricted to one or two airlines were opened to others including those lower cost competitors.

Airline clubs, once exclusive (and free) to those who flew regularly or worked for companies with multitude of employees flying, were required by antidiscrimination laws to open their doors to all passengers who were willing to pay the newly instituted charges for their use.

Of course, with the advent of lower costs, came the required reduction in services, unless you could afford first class or accumulated enough miles on the airline of your choice to book or upgrade to first class. That’s an oxymoron as you may have found if you tried using them, particularly in the holiday season. Good luck on that!

So, as you book your holiday flights be prepared to arrive hours ahead of schedule, pay extra for checked baggage, seat assignments and food, and suffer through lengthy, tedious and sometimes intrusive security checks.

But remember that “getting there is half the fun,” or try to remember when it was.

Ciao!

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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