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Sunday, May 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: When Air Travel Was Glamorous and Exciting


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.

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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