I've been riding airplanes now for almost 40 years. Travel back in the mid 1970s was much different than it is today. My first flight was to a baseball tournament in West Texas on Southwest Airlines, remarkably, one of the few airlines operating in the United States that is still in business. Think back to those days of less stringent security, more luxury on the trip, and the fact that it was an event. Travel by air was still very expensive in those days and when one got to go somewhere on an airplane it was special. If you remember this time, air travel was considered sexy, cool, and things that celebrities, athletes, big business executives and politicians did. The average person would usually drive their cars, take a bus, or if it was available still ride a train to get to where they wanted to go. The "elite" that could afford air travel got treated like royalty in my eyes. I remember flying these now defunct airlines and wonder how many of you recall the experiences when on Pan Am or Brannif. See a sample set below of airlines that catered to both leisure and business travel, and for one reason or another do not exist anymore.
Probably known for being run by one of the most controversial and eccentric people of all time. Trans World Airlines was another airline from my memory that I wish was still around. Howard Hughes invested heavily in TWA in the late 1930's and gained control of the airline from the mid-50's until 1961 when he was forced by the board to sell his shares and Charles Tillinghaust took over control. TWA was another airline, very much in the same manner of Pan Am. It was an airline that went to cool destinations like Japan, Latin America, Europe and when we were kids the site of a big TWA DC-10 or 747 heading out of DFW airport evoked images of exotic destinations. TWA merged with American in 2001 and alas is no more. The last TWA flight I took was to St. Louis, its former headquarters and all of the employees were very sad about the merger with American. Many of them had worked for TWA for over 20 years and it was like losing a family member.
We've all seen brands come and go, but with airlines there is something emotive about seeing one disappear. It is like losing a friend. I fly American Airlines now exclusively because I live in DFW and have an elevated status that gets me checked bags for free, pre-boarding, access to the airline club and upgrades on many flights to first class. It's nice I suppose, but the whole thing has become workmanlike. The chore of standing in the security lines, baggage claim lines, rental car lines, etc. has lost all of its luster from my youth. Now, I get excited about air travel when I'm heading out with my wife for a trip to some of those exotic locations I used to dream about when I was watching the James Bond movies of my youth.
This September, Judy and I will be gong to London, my favorite city in the world, then Paris, then on to St. Petersburg Russia for 10 days. It will be my first trip of any length to Paris and first trip at all into Russia, so am excited about seeing the new places. I could stay in London forever, there is so much to do. I approach this trip with a little of the enthusiasm and excitement of my youth, when I was getting on that first airplane ride to West Texas to go play baseball.
Since that first ride, I've probably flown about 3 million miles since I've been traveling on business for over 30 years. It's a good feeling to be able to look at this coming trip as an adventure and not a chore.
I'd like to hear from you regarding your experiences with air-travel. What were or are your favorite airlines? What is your favorite destination? Who do you think is the best airline today?
Tell me what you think.