Bringing back the good old days

By | Category: Travel rumblings

United_Boeing_747_livery_2Remember when low cost flights started? There were 99p flights to places that you hadn’t heard of and, on Laker you took your own sandwiches on board. There were names like Ryanair, easyJet with larger than life figures that are still around today. And there was Go which provided almond croissants with a dusting of icing sugar that were as good as any you’ll get from a bakers.

Then it started to go downhill. Downhill, at least for the passenger. We started having to pay for luggage, we paid if it didn’t fit into a metal cage and we were given no allocated seats so there were long queues ages before the plane took off just so you could get a seat. Or a stampede with some people being as aggressive in the after Christmas sales. (Remember them? They seem to have disappeared as well.) Administration fees suddenly popped up and we were charged if we didn’t check-in online.

There were jokes about having to pay to use the toilets on Ryanair and we were charged for exit row seats until the CAA started warning airlines that there had to be people in those seats to help people in the event of a disaster. Humourists and cartoonists suggested that Michael O’Leary wanted to charge for the air we breathe on his flights.

In the US, the traditional airlines began charging bag-by-bag for luggage and sold snacks and drinks. They signed deals with companies Starbucks, Seattle Coffee and McDonald’s to provide their food and drink, presumably thinking we would be mollified by having access to known brands.

But now passengers seem to be getting the upper hand. easyJet started giving us allocated seats and O’Leary became nice and introduced a theory of being pleasant to customers. We wondered whether he had been out in the sun too much but, realising he lived in Ireland, knew this was unlikely. He even made a pastiche of the John Lewis man-in-the-moon Christmas advert this year that made you believe he was a nice man after all.

In the US, United Airlines have decided to bring back free snacks in economy class. After all these years of me thinking that airlines only cared for first and business class passengers, this sort of news could dent my cynicism! The morning snacks will be Dutch style caramel-filled waffles while afternoon and evening flights will have titbits such as rice crackers, sesame sticks and wasabi peas or mini pretzel sticks and Cajun corn sticks.

OK it’s not real food like a BLT, a bacon butty or scones with jam and cream but it’s a beginning. And if United is doing this, other US airlines and then European low-cost airlines might follow suit.

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