Is flying magical?

By | Category: travel, Travel tips & opinions

airline seats – getting smaller, packed and with little legroom

At the Aviation Festival held in London last week, Shashank Nigam from Simplflying posed this question.

Giving the example of his three-year old daughter’s first flight, yes – she found it magical but as for the rest of us that have flown before? Do we agree? He suggested that somewhere, something has gone wrong. In some ways that is because airlines are functional. They are just another form of transport, at worst they are no more buses of the air.

I don’t think anyone else talked about the magic of air travel. They talked about giving the customer a better experience and stressed customer satisfactions. They talked of providing the customer with what they wanted (which really meant what they thought customers wanted) and they talked endlessly about the benefits that technology would bring. But magic? No, it seemed all too serious for there to be any magic left if, indeed, there ever was some.

In the early days, the glamour was just in flying at all

Things have changed which rather sounds like the depressing reminiscences of an old codger but it isn’t meant to be. It has been forced on us by a never ending series of cutbacks so that price is all pervasive. Maybe there is magic travelling in first class but I have done that and there is little magic left there either.

Air travel is much cheaper than it was forty –five years ago when I first flew and even more different from when my aunt flew in 1946, he first member of the family to fly for leisure rather than as part of WWI or WWII. When she flew from London to Sydney the journey took over a week and each night the plane landed. It was a journey reserved largely for the rich. But even that couldn’t have been too magical because she never talked much about it and certainly didn’t sit excited or dreamily as she regaled us with the journey. In fact I don’t remember any regaling!

Concord -had a magical look. Image © Aerospace Bristol

When I first flew the china crockery had long since departed to business and first class. It was only on a small airline – Darwin Air – in the first part of this century that I had china cups and saucers as part of an economy class flight. But I did have metal cutlery and there was some space between my seat and the one in front of me. There was no selection of films on long-haul routes, you just ad the one film screened and if the person in front of you was tall then you saw only a little bit of the image. Fairly frequently, it seemed, the film broke down and had to be re-set

Back then, the fare I paid for a flight in 1973 from Australia to the UK is not far short of the same I will pay this November for a similar flight.

airline snacks have replaced the afternoon meals. I was lucky to have two packets of biscuits! And no china teacup either.

That is where the big difference has come. The cost of a flight is comparatively low compared to all those years ago but, you could argue, the expectation is that as well. The bed-socks, eye masks, toothpaste, toothbrush, shoe horns and combs have gone from most flights and it wouldn’t surprise me if we start having to pay for the blanket and pillow before long!

The meals seem worse regardless of what I am told and for many years I have often taken some crusty bread, brie or stilton to eat instead of “enjoying” an airline meal. On more than occasion on a transatlantic flight I have shared some with the cabin crew so what does that say about the crew think of the meals? Now that I have to pay for meals on short-haul and some transatlantic flights I am no worse off than before.

Being a little odd, I confess I used to like BA’s English breakfast that they used to serve on the early morning shuttle flights but they are gone to be replaced by a sandwich laden with salad because some knowledgeable person told them that it makes a healthy meal. For anyone with allergies or a system incapable of properly digesting lettuce, your remove more food than you eat. Each label has to be carefully scrutinised because airlines seem to think that only nut allergies are the things they should worry about. They don’t realise that there are people allergic to tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions and even coffee. But if I want a low lactose free or salt free meal no worries. If I were a vegetarian, diabetic or wanted a kosher meal there would be no problem.

This looks more appetising so I am perhaps overly critical of airline food. After I tried it I found I wasn’t!

I am obviously being harsh because I haven’t travelled on every airline so there may be one or two which might make me feel as though the trip was magic. But after flying on over forty different ones, I haven’t found a magical one yet.

And that’s a shame for Nigam’s daughter. She might have just had the most magical flight she is ever likely to get.

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