The flight experience, once upon a time

by Jerry Castellano on January 29, 2010


A series of articles about the “Good Old Days” in which yet another pathetic cranky aging boomer tries to convince the world that things used to be better.

A couple of weeks ago my next door neighbor, who must travel often from here (St. Louis) to Chicago, summed it up when he said that flying is worse than going to the DMV. And this remark was made before the Christmas Day incident and the resulting increased (and inconsistent) attempts at improving security.

We all know what a hassle it is just to get to your plane. To add insult to injury, he added that more than half the time, the flight attendants announced that due to the short flying time, no beverages would be served. “Wow” I thought, short is a relative term. Back when I started in the airline business, at the long gone and sorely missed Ozark Air Lines, we would routinely serve beverages on the 29-minute Columbia – St. Louis flight (and that’s not 29 minutes flying time, that was the published gate-to-gate or “block” time, the actual flying time at least eight minutes less).

With a standard like that, it’s no wonder that we served food on almost every one of our eleven STL – ORD flights (each one hour, gate-to-gate). The morning flights we nicknamed the “donut dash.” Trays of assorted donuts were boarded; one flight attendant dished them out (and it seemed that some passengers took forever to decide which one they desired) while the other two followed with the beverage cart. Not too tough.

Later in the day, however, things got interesting. For many years we had a service called the wine basket. The food carriers, which normally held seven full-size trays, were filled with (I think) about twenty oval baskets, each of which contained a piece of fruit (either an apple or a small bunch of grapes, depending on the season), two pieces of wrapped cheese (usually Laughing Cow) a package of crackers, a napkin, a plastic knife, a packet of Grey Poupon mustard and a pony (187 ml) bottle of complimentary wine.

The ovens were boarded with warm sandwiches. After takeoff, we’d pile the sandwiches on top of the food cart and two flight attendants would dish them out while a third would follow with additional beverages. Clean up was simple; we’d go through the cabin with plastic bags for the disposable items and stack the baskets, holding them between our arms and bodies as we proceeded through the cabin. All of this in 50 minutes or less!

Later on, just for variety we substituted warm pizza slices from a local chain, coupled with a seven-ounce bottle of Budweiser (we were based in St. Louis after all). And for the crews (based out of STL) the trip sequences almost always held a pair of these legs (up to ORD and back) so you did it twice. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

These old-days stories are something to reflect on these days while you’re trying to get the flight attendant’s attention so you can enjoy your $5 (or more) beer (they were a buck then, cocktails $1.50) to take the edge off of your travel experience. That is, if your flight is deemed long enough in include a beverage service.

Cheers!

Photo:by wheezr, flickr creative commons

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  • Frank

    the flight attendants announced that due to the short flying time, no beverages would be served. “Wow” I thought, short is a relative term. Back when I started in the airline business, at the long gone and sorely missed Ozark Air Lines, we would routinely serve beverages on the 29-minute Columbia – St. Louis flight (and that’s not 29 minutes flying time, that was the published gate-to-gate or “block” time, the actual flying time at least eight minutes less).
    ====================================================

    Times have changed. And so has the number of flight attendants onboard serving you. In the good ol’ days, a 757-200 would have SIX Flight Attendants, nowadays, it has ONLY FOUR. Most aircraft have reduced the number of flight attendants onboard, by several. Hence, due to the duration of the flight, FOUR flight attendants could not possibly serve nearly 180 passengers.

  • Anonymously disappointed

    Pay more for less…it’s the American way.

    I HATE flying. As a child, I loved it. I even got to get wings from the cockpit, and be up front with the pilots. I only fly now when required, and unless I win the lottery so I can fly 1st class every time, that will remain my standard. It’s a shame. I honestly wish the government had allowed all the airlines to go bankrupt after 9/11, and give the TSB/FAA real teeth for enforcement/regulation. As a direct result of no one having the guts to do this, we have the very horrible flying conditions that exist today. To the flying public, we bailed out the airlines back in 2001/2002 only to have them spit on us, with bag fees, and reduced service. Still happy about not telling your representatives in Congress this was a bad idea? I certainly am not.

  • http://tripso Sophie Cripe

    We recently had a 25 minute flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok on Bangkok Airways. Traveling coach, not only did we have beverage service, we had a meal and duty free service. So the golden days are not gone everywhere…Just in the U.S.

  • DaveS

    I think there’s a lot of nostalgia, and that’s fine, but the world is different today. Flying is not an experience reserved for the prosperous; it is a method of mass transportation. Fares, adjusted for inflation, are far lower than they were in the good old days, and that’s a good thing. The stewardesses no longer pass out cigarettes for people to smoke on the flight. Nobody had heard of terrorism back then, so, yes, the annoying security procedures didn’t exist. We live in a different world. Nostalgia is fine, but calls for government to bring back the “good old days” are wrong.

  • http://earthlink sid weiner

    FLY JET BLUE–IN SPITE OF THEIR NEW FF PROGRAM THEY STILL REMIND ME OF THE 60′S AND 70′S–PRETTY SOON WE WON’T HAVE TO GET DRESSED WHEN FLYING WITH THE TSA CONSTANT NEW RULES

  • Trudy Richardson

    Everyone is correct. The world has changed and sadly it has become a world of NO SERVICE. They airlines wonder why sales are in the tank; that is also called no service. Instead of trying to make flights more enjoyable for the passenger to off set the horrors of security they make sure that it is a horrible experience all the way through. Like going to have a tooth pulled you know you will be miserable all the way through. I used to look forward to my flights (I travel often) they were a pleasure and an opportunity to meet new people and have an adventure. Now the airline attitude is not to move people with style and comfort it is see how many we can jam on a plane and make miserable for the entire journey with nasty tempered flight attendents high prices and nothing except cheapness throughout. They also cut out their partners the travel agents several years ago giving them NOTHING for handling business for them (an by the way they also told the traveling public their prices would get lower! Have you seen that happen?) and at the same time speak of them in a condescending way while still making use of their services that they now get for free. I for one would vote not to save their skins again, I did not think we should have done it to begin with because it goes against good business practice, if you have a good product fairly priced you will suceed! All I have to say is greed always ends up with the same result; it is called rock bottom. Maybe when they reach it they will realize they are a SERVICE industry!!!!

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