Do you think that the “golden age” of air transport is over? Think again

You can no longer smoke on board the aircraft. That’s the only real difference I see.

And if you’re really yearning for the days when you could light a 39A cigarette and blow noxious fumes all over your traveling companions while tapping ash out of a little box in your armrest – well, I don’t think you going to get a lot of sympathy.

For everyone else, however, the “golden age” of air travel still exists. You just have to pay for it.

I have often heard people lament the loss of flight as a special experience. Before, it was different, they say. Flying somewhere used to be a real event.

You would dress for it. Everyone would. No boardies or flip flops or visible tattoos. Everyone looks like they’re going out to dinner, at a fancy restaurant.

You weren’t one of the masses back then either. Flying was an exclusive experience, reserved for the upper strata of society, those who had a lot of money to spend. You would be treated like someone special.

On board, that sense of exclusivity and civility remained. There was room. You can stand up, move around and talk to people. You can lie on sofas. You could drink a martini and smoke a cigarette and look like an extra from the set of Mad Men.

Flying really meant something then. Even those who could afford it didn’t do it very often. The technology was still new too – just to hover in the air was something remarkable, incredible.

I must admit that I was never there for this golden age of air travel. You could still smoke on planes when I started flying, when I was little, when my family took trips to see relatives in the UK and the US (you could also climb into the cockpit to meet pilots in full flight). My dad always insisted that we dress up for a flight.

However, we were firmly stuck in the bulbous (as opposed to pointy) end of a 747-300, sharing the air with the smoking section, sharing the armrests with those little ashtrays, craning our necks to see what movie was playing on the large screen at the front of the cabin.

I’ve only seen this “golden age” in sepia photographs from the 60s and 70s. It looks lovely. He looks amazing. It looks like – I have to say – modern day business class.

Because that’s what I don’t understand. People complaining that the golden age of air travel is over? It’s not. It still exists very well. You just turn left when you board the plane instead of right.

And, you have to pay for it.

Modern business and first class cabins are just as good, and in fact, I’d bet much better, than anything back then.

You don’t have to dress nicely for business class anymore, but people do. You also get that feeling of exclusivity when you get a separate check-in queue, when you are rushed through security and immigration, when you access a special area during departures where there is wine and free food and a nice place to sit and read the paper.

Want space on the plane? How about a private “suite” with a closing door, where you can lie back and watch a huge personal TV while sipping a glass of real champagne? Qatar Airways has that.

How about an open bar in the back of the plane where you can sit on a couch and munch on snacks and chat with your fellow travelers about all the money you make (or how someone else paid for this experience)? Emirates has that.

Don’t let anyone tell you that the golden age of air travel is over. Even the cost is similar. In relative terms, the cost of a business class ticket to Europe today is about the same as a standard fare back then. This is exclusive. It’s not something you would do all the time.

Those who still want to fly this way can. The only difference now is that those who don’t have one, or could never afford one, can also fly.

The flight experience has been democratized over the past 50 years. People who wear boards and flip-flops and have visible tattoos can also fly. In fact, most people, in Australia at least, can and do fly.

When you board the plane for your exclusive Golden Age experience, you may notice that many of them are also waiting to board the plane, where they will turn right at the gate, will sneak in and suffer some inconveniences. and discomforts to get where they would like to go and do what they would like to do.

They also cannot smoke on board.




See also: How to get VIP treatment at the airport – without flying business class

See also: Flight turns around after economy class passengers upgrade to business class

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