What ever happened to common courtesy while flying on an airplane?
Flying used to be an adventure. So much has changed since my inaugural flight back in 1959, of course everything else seems to be upside down too.
I was 9 years old, living in Akron at my grandparents’ home, which was also home to some of my uncles. This story includes my Uncle Richard who I looked up to, literally, because he was one of my father figures. Did I mention he was 6 foot 3 inches tall? My Dad had just passed in August of 1958, and it was now April of ’59, as this story begins.
My uncle needed to go to Florida to retrieve his car, and since the trip was over the weekend, he asked me to go and keep him company.
I think there was a little sympathy in there too, but what did I care. I got to Fly, and the car we were bringing home was a 1958 Thunderbird. How cool! In my mind we were going to be flying both ways.
I remember we had to dress in our best Sunday going to church clothes, me in a white shirt and tie, freshly polished shoes, and I even got to wear my green tweed blazer. Dick had on his business suit and we were off to Orlando. No Disney yet, so Orlando was not nearly as busy as it would become.
The flight had great service in regular seating, which was called Air Coach, this included hot meals with beverages, and a snack in between.
The big feature on our United flight was how proud they were of their newest improvement called Radar. There were no price wars, you simply paid for a seat and treated it like you were attending a 3-hour show, somewhat subdued and spoke in hushed tones. Everyone was happy to be able to do this, everyone was courteous and treated each other with respect. First class might have thought they were better than us, but we all arrived at the same time anyway, so it was no big deal.
This was a beautiful introduction to the wave of the future. By the time the Jetson’s cartoon show arrived in 1962 we believed this vision of the future would actually happen.
The next time I flew was in 1970 when my buddy and I drove to Miami and took a flight to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Not a lot of competition to buy your tickets yet, so we drove down to Akron Canton airport to buy the tickets for this advertised vacation package, right from the ticketing counter. It was in the Akron Beacon Journal and boasted round trip air fare Miami to St. Thomas including 3-night stay at the Island Beachcomber Resort for $271. This is the bar right on the beach. good food, and even better drinks.
Truly a wonderful trip.
The next time I flew was in 1982 from Daytona Beach to Cleveland Hopkins, this time with the help of a friend who owned a travel agency. Same price as the airline, but it was much easier to deal locally, and this was before the internet took flight. I even used my friend to book a ticket to meet my girlfriend returning to New Smyrna from Ohio. She had a 4-hour layover in Atlanta, so I flew up to keep her company in the airport lounge.
What a view! Then we flew home together. I made this happen without texts or instant messaging, and boy was she surprised. Fortunately, she was really glad to see me, I really didn't think this through. I flew occasionally over the years before 9/11 changed everything. I did notice a change to more comfortable clothing, but everyone was still dressed stylish, and they were still courteous.
After 9/11 people were leery of flying, with all the changes and even some fear, so the airlines upped their game, offering lower prices as an incentive. Cheaper fares meant everybody could now fly, so more passengers meant smaller seats, less legroom, a longer wait time for boarding and takeoff. All of this meant less profit, and we certainly can’t have that so we will just have to adjust service levels. Where I think they missed the boat, is not eliminating alcohol. Most of the aggravation is fueled by alcohol, and this totally misguided sense of entitlement. Respect is not bought, and nobody owes you your personal freedoms at the expense of others. If you won’t play nice, stay off the planes. Now we are at the point of no return.
The passengers sometimes have to take matters into their own hands
even more so now because the air marshals are stretched so thin and cannot possibly be on each and every flight. Southwest Airlines reported 477 passenger misconduct incidents on flights between April 8 and May 15. That is more than 12 every day and they are only 17% of the market. And this does not include all the other incidents that didn’t involve physical assault. The phrase, “to hell in a handbasket”, comes to mind, let’s not keep dragging it down.
So, I suggest that maybe we should not be part of the problem, but rather we teach our kids or anyone who will listen to become part of the solution. Tell the airlines what we expect for a service level, and be willing to pay a little more money, for a little more respect and peace of mind. We should embrace the idea that we are all only entitled to the same level of respect we serve up. Do what is right, like you were raised.