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Sunday, May 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: When Air Travel Was Glamorous and Exciting

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What on earth has happened to air travel? It’s a ⁤question ​I have found ⁤myself lamenting over on many ‌occasions, especially over the past decade.⁢ I remember returning from trips, strolling through the corridors of ⁣the Albany International Airport, donning my best Hawaiian shirt, feeling invincible ⁣and all part of an adventure. Now, the excitement has not just faded, but⁢ been replaced with dread ​and uniform monotony. It appears something has been amiss for quite some time and it’s time we said enough‌ is enough.

The thrill ⁣of traveling by air has ⁣been devastatingly⁣ shrunk into a mere ‘faster means to an end’ category. Travelers are treated ​as commodities with scheduled security checks that have more ​in common with herded‌ livestock ​than dignified human beings. Gone are ⁤the days when strolling ‍through the airport​ hallway made one feel like a spectacle attending the Oscars.

I remember, as a fourteen-year-old boy watching my neighbor, Mr. Jeffries, depart‌ for a business ‌trip. He was resplendent⁢ in a sharply‌ creased suit, polished wingtips and an aura of authority. The airport‌ was a captivating sight; the staff was uniformly decked in crisp azure and the concrete floor gleamed⁣ under the overhead lights. And let’s not forget the spacious legroom on flights, decent meal services, and the thrilling cabin announcements that made even a flight to the next state feel like an expedition to the Amazon.

Adventures ⁣like these were not limited to the elites. Growing up in​ Schenectady, the airport was hours away, but the prospect of an airplane ride ⁤was ​perhaps as thrilling as the actual trip itself. Getting your ticket manually stamped‍ at ⁢the ticket counter, being welcomed on ⁤board by‌ attendants decked out in crisp uniforms, and the excitement of seeing an airplane‍ meal served on a ‍real‍ plate- it was all part of the grand experience.

As I got older and life granted both boons and travails, I traveled. No, not as an airline⁢ aficionado, but as ⁣a man who valued experiences. I tasted the thrill of love and heartache; rejoiced at the birth of my kids and mourned the passing of my parents. Life, akin to​ a turbulent turbulence, threw challenges. Each⁣ time I bounced back, growing from these shared‌ experiences and carrying with me the nostalgia of the early days of air travel.

Now fast forward to today. What⁢ do we have? Overcrowded airplanes, minimal legroom, insipid airplane food in boxes, flight attendants who have‌ no time ⁤for pleasantries, and let’s not begin with‍ the nightmare that is security check! Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for security measures in these unsettling times; better safe than sorry, ⁤yes. But in our quest for safety, we must not trade in​ dignity.

Picture‌ this, last Christmas, my daughter invited ‍me⁤ to spend the holiday with her family in California. I was looking forward to spending time with my grandchildren, but the prospect of the flight left ​me dispirited. ‍As I ⁤stood there, shoeless, with⁣ my belt⁤ hanging awkwardly from my hand, shuffling through the security ‍queue‍ at the Albany Airport, I⁣ found myself‌ reminiscing about the golden time of air travel.

I filled my grandchildren’s heads ​with tales of luxurious‌ snacks ‍– real ⁣sandwiches, ⁣not pretzels, and exotic drinks served in glassware, not plastic. Looking ⁣at their wide-eyed wonder, I felt ‍a twinge ‌of sadness that they were probably destined to experience the drudgery ‌of present-day air travel.

There was a time when airlines paid attention to small details, to comfort, to style. Now, it seems air travel is all about ⁣packing ⁤us in like sardines and rushing us through – a far cry from the opulence of the past.⁢ There was an ⁢intimate connection ‍between traveler, airline, and airport, but now⁣ it feels stark and​ impersonal.

We ​need to bring back the adventure, the gleam ‌and the thrill of traveling by air. As for me, I am​ not ready to give up. I have started frequenting the Schenectady County Airport. No, I’m not booking my next ‍flight out of there.⁢ My old Piper Cherokee sits in ⁣one corner, and every fortnight I make it a ‌point to⁢ take her out for a spin over the scenic Mohawk River. It’s not quite⁣ the grandeur ​of those glamorous air ​travel days, but it certainly brings me closer to those hallowed memories than any commercial flight can.

So, I close with this plea. Let’s ⁣remember that joy, that magic, that once was the cornerstone of air travel. We might be​ more rushed, more safety conscious and more impatient these days, but we ought to⁢ remember that inherent in every journey, besides the destination, is also the journey ⁢itself – something that we seem to have perhaps fleetingly forgotten.

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Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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