I do remember thinking how magical it would be to get on an aeroplane flying away to somewhere, and my first trip as a student on an old Dakota left over from WWII was indeed magical. Noisy, yes, as it shook its way at relatively low level across the North Sea, but none of that mattered, I was flying.
The first long distance flight coming back from the UK to Wellington via Sydney in the late 1960s was a different experience, and TEAL flew Turboprop Viscounts still, but what a pleasure it was. The service unhurried and plentiful, helpful to families with children and the younger ones were entertained with games, and visits to the flight-deck for the older ones. Membership to the airline’s children’s’ club with a badge to boot.
Since then many such trips across the world with a great many airlines, many of which no longer ply the skies, have gradually lost their magic as the planes got bigger and seats smaller, the available space shrank and the overhead lockers got filled with luggage rather than the odd duty-free purchases and handbags.
The now common fighting to fill the overhead locker lacks the courtesy of past times, and the crew, whilst no doubt trying their best, has so many more passengers per head to care for, that getting the plane ready for take off on time is tough enough.
As you finally sink into your allocated seat and fasten the belt you feel the knees of the passenger behind you in your back, and you have insufficient room to move round in your seat to remonstrate, but then whose fault is it really that the seats have so little room for you to manoeuvre in?
Touch wood, I have never lost my luggage in spite of the many stick on labels that used to be common. Now we have the self-adhesive handle labels, no doubt progress of sorts, but not very interesting to read whilst waiting at the carousel.
I have suffered smashed luggage, presumably a bad hair day for a baggage handler, and a great deal of trouble to get the airline to pay up, but fortunately a rare occurrence.
So why do we go to all that trouble and sacrifice all that time getting to and from airports which in most cases lie miles from where you want to go, and then we queue for ages at various counters to collect duty-free, go through customs, immigration, getting x-rayed, maybe removing shoes and trouser belt, then body searched or scanned with hand-held instruments whilst your body is felt over by some rubber gloved official, all to get the doorway of the air bridge.
After landing hope your suitcase is among to masses tumbling onto the conveyor and then go through the reverse inspection process and documentation before you are let off to find the taxis, buses or rail link to your destination. Why?
Well we do it because going from A to B can no longer take weeks or even months by sea, or locally by train that no longer offer the facilities common not that many years ago, e.g. a sleeper to Auckland.
The days of elegance, punctuality, friendly service and comfort have gone on the altar of speed and, I admit, cost. So if you don’t mind the elbow duels over seat arms and the visits to the chiropractor or physio after your flight –