15 October 2011


I can remember a time when travel used to be fun. It was once possible to take a helicopter run by New York Airways to the airport from atop the Pan Am building near Grand Central Station in midtown Manhattan. Everything about jet airline travel then was “futuristic;” the airport, the aircraft, even the attire of the stewardesses. Now everything seems dismally past. The city banned the helicopter, Pan Am is gone (now the MetLife building), and routine travel has become an inconvenient ordeal. Once there was no onerous security screening and you could roam freely. It was also easy to catch a last minute flight. I remember one time missing a flight on American Airlines. I was able to simply walk over to United Airlines using the same ticket and catch their next flight to the same destination. There were also more direct, nonstop flights. Now you have to go through a “hub” and often wait around to change planes, hoping your luggage also made the same transfer.

The days of convenience and service are long gone. Once the airlines all provided meals and snacks, and baggage was considered an integral part of the trip- so much so that it would never have occurred to anyone to describe it as free. Now the airlines impose additional charges for every conceivable item, and ticket prices have been substantially inflated to the point, where, on my last ticket purchase taxes and fees were one-third of the price. A good deal of this has come about because of enhanced “security,” the passage through which can be a major nuisance. (I’m sure I could find a million other people who’d love to join me in stomping the “shoe bomber” to death).

Overall this is one area where life was definitely better thirty to forty years ago, and actually more modern. Something has gone terribly wrong with aerospace. Back then we were walking on the moon. Now we can’t even get to the International Space Station on our own. Then the future seemed a sure bet to be even better, with ever increasing improvements. Instead everything is essentially the same in many respects and far worse in others. Anyone who has lived through this regression cannot fail to be disappointed. Where once a trip to the airport was an occasion for wondrous joy, now we try an avoid flying as much as possible. We need to take a really hard look at this situation and come up with some solutions that will at least get us back to where we were, if not better.

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