Have Domestic Airlines REALLY Gone on the Decline?
Gary of View from the Wing wrote a post on the decline of domestic First Class, in response to a New York Times article and it got me thinking about the supposed detriment of commercial air travel in general.
I realize that I am not nearly as qualified to speak to this as some others, but despite my young age (25) I do still have some memories of the “good ol’ days.”
I remember getting a nice meal on a plane when I was about 5 years old–on 2-hour flight, in coach nonetheless. And I also have several memories of waiting at the gate area for family members to arrive/depart. One particular gate-area waiting experience that stands out wast at McGee-Tyson Airport (long before it was infamous for the wrong reason) when my father was leaving on a business trip. I was give a deck of Delta playing cards, and welcomed by a flight attendant to explore the plane before takeoff. I was shown the entire cabin, the lavatory and even the cockpit–something that would surely never happen in this day and age. All that to say that I think there is some merit to reminiscing on the grand old days of commercial aviation.
But whether pre-9/11 or post-9/11, flying has always been magical for me personally. In most cases it has meant that I was about to experience something great. Growing up 800 miles away in Tennessee, it usually meant that I was headed to have a reunion with relatives in Oklahoma. Later on in college it was about making back home to Washington for winter break. Now that I am more independent, my travel has grown to include exploring new, fascinating places and visiting old friends.
In essence, commercial flight has always been a vehicle (no pun intended) to getting me to great experiences so much so that it has become a part of the magic itself.
Maybe that is why I have always been so crazy about flying. Granted I have never really been a hard-core road warrior, but the little nuances of flying have always seemed so exciting. Checking in and getting my boarding pass, being astounded at the various airport signage and offerings, being enchanted by the microcosms of other peoples’ lives that I see as they scurry hither and fro, and getting to see our majestic planet from a bird’s eye view–it has always been an incredible experience for me. And most people’s beef-the security line has never really bothered me. I think having grown up with it, going security has always seemed normal to, and thus I have never had a problem with it.
But the New York Times article Gary responded to hits more specifically on the First Class side of things. It pushes the the perceived notion that First Class is desirable only because it “less horrible alternative to coach.” Which I don’t think is true at all.
Before I play the whole “Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird” card, I will grant both Gary and Jessie McKinley, the author of the article, that First Class is an improvement over coach, hands down. The first time I was upgraded it amazed me how much legroom I was afforded, and how far I had to had to stretch arms (I’m only 5’6″) to use the arm rests. I was ecstatic about the enhanced food and drink offerings which certainly weren’t earth-shattering good, but served their purpose of nourishment. Overall though I was impressed most of all by the upgraded level of service I received. Contrary to what both Gary and the Times article have to say, it was enjoyable. So what if the moist towelette is lukewarm–the better for being able to handle while still refreshing.
Therefore just like flight for me in general, I am able to be satisfied with domestic First Class. Is one a little more desirable than the other? Sure, but in similar fashion, my delight in eating at a pricy meal at Morton’s does not prevent me from enjoying my cheeseburger at McDonald’s.
Golden days of yore or today, coach or putting on the Ritz in First, I think your experience flying comes down to what you make of it. And for me, it has always been magical.