Stop Romanticizing Past Air Travel

It would seem the constant refrain of our age is “air travel sucks now.” This oft-quipped statement is lobbied around just about any time even the most distant of familiars circles within a mile of a major airport. It is everyone’s favorite complaint and a reason to get attention from others. The unfortunate news is, air travel is currently better than it has ever been. Allow me to explain…

The bucolic era of 1950’s-60’s air travel seems to be the go-to example of how air travel used to be and could be again if only we had a little more class. Men in suits, passengers smiling and helping each other, friendly crew and agents are all the missed features of this bygone era. Newsflash: you couldn’t have afforded it when it was so different. Air travel was only for the rich. That’s why everyone wore suits and dresses and greeted each other with a smile and help. These were the upper class talking to other upper class people. Tickets used to be expensive as hell. Only rich and businessmen could afford a ticket. When your friend moans “it used to be so nice and luxurious. Flying was an event,” remind them they are exactly right, and that it is no longer an asset only the wealthy can enjoy. Soon enough, people will be saying yacht travel is just too crowded and not like it used to be.

1950’s air travel was also horrific. Forget comfortable seats and amenities (beyond martinis and cigarettes), forget safety, and certainly forget the quiet and peace of a modern aircraft cabin. Props and early jet engines were no picnic to be sitting between, and our insulation and layout knowledge has increased by leaps and bounds since those early days. Modern air travel provides you with so many new benefits that all the Don Drapers in the world would have gladly traded in their free in-flight booze for. Current planes are faster, safer, and cheaper than ever. I’m sorry that you have to put up with other humans for a few hours while on one, but by no means can you compare today’s economical and egalitarian air travel to yesteryear’s travel for only the wealthy. So the next time someone you know moans “air travel sucks now,” just go ahead and remind them that the past is never as rosy as people like to imagine.