Come Fly with Me

plane-2181180_960_720Remember that song by Frank Sinatra? For me it evokes memories of the loveliest kind. Let me explain.

My daughter recently returned from a trip to see her California relatives and getting there was pure and complete hell. Whereas she was supposed to get there in one day, it ended up taking two. Whereas she was supposed to have just one layover, she ended up with two. Whereas she was supposed to arrive in one city, she ended up arriving in another. All of this combined with cramped quarters, less than lovely flight attendants, and the need to pay extra for luggage.

Flying today is not her mother’s experience flying some 40 (ouch) years ago. Back in the day, it was a really big deal and most people got dressed up for their time in the skies. There was no extra charge for luggage, flight attendants treated every passenger like royalty, and when there was “an act of God” (weather issue) that cancelled or delayed flights, the airlines ALWAYS gave out vouchers for food and hotels.

I too used to fly to California often since I lived there and commuted frequently back to Rochester. Although not all of my memories are so, I vividly remember what wonderfully pleasant experiences I had flying coast to coast in the 70s and 80s. It was always a Chicago connection (except for once when my boss ‘made’ me fly to NYC with a connection to Rochester – but that’s another story for another day…) to a DC-10, one of the first wide-bodies that was commonly flown on longer domestic hauls back then. And here’s where my Fly with Me story begins.

Let me begin by saying I smoked – cigarettes, that is. And I smoked a lot. In those days, smoking was allowed on airplanes. Also in those days, flights were far from full, seats were bigger, and passengers were allowed to drink all the wine they wanted – for FREE. Do you see a theme here? Indeed, you do. I always headed for the very last row of seats in the plane, and even if they weren’t assigned to me – they usually weren’t – those particular seats were almost always empty. Plus, they were right next to the bathroom, which, you shall see, I would need more than once as I quite gaily made my way across the country. Now picture this: a row of three seats with a single person (me), smoking up a storm, drinking like a fish, sprawling like a queen and having a wonderful time.

Can you see this happening today? Oh, maybe in first class or on a first-rate airline like Emirates or Alitalia. But otherwise, no way!

Well, things change, for the better and for the worse. For the airlines? They are striving to make more money (are they); for the passengers? We are losing comfort and gaining stress, not a lucrative endeavor, indeed.