Traveling by Air—Then and Now


Passengers walk out to board plane as the sun sets above.

I’m old enough to remember what it was like to travel before everything changed so much.  Most of my travel when I was growing up was flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  I think I probably did a trip to San Luis Obispo a few times too.

We used PSA, the smiling airplane (had a big smile on the front of the plane).  PSA stood for Pacific Southwest Airlines, and it serviced California.  The uniforms for the flight attendants were pink and orange.

We got a paper ticket in a little envelope, well in advance of the flight.  I was always terrified that I was going to lose that ticket!

If I was traveling by myself, my parents waited with me at the gate until I boarded.

We boarded the planes by walking out on the tarmac and climbing up steep aluminum stairs as the engines roared and the wind whipped around us.  The cockpit would be open, the bright light streaming in from outside. I could see all the gauges—just wall to wall with them!

The seats were also pink and orange, made of cloth.  The cabin was quite roomy.  You can see some interior photos here—some pretty cool pictures.  The bathrooms—ah, I don’t think there’s much difference between then and today.

When I got off the plane at the other end, I exited out of the gate and there was another family member like my grandparents waiting for me.

Meanwhile, I was just in Wisconsin the last few days.  I flew over on American Airlines.  I started the day with an email telling me my first flight was going to be delayed so I would miss my connection.  I rebooked a new outbound flight and had to go to the airport immediately because I was now in the 2-hour window.

Race down to the airport in my car (which I so did not want to do; a taxi would have been much cheaper).  I find the gate on the board, go through security, and then find the gate.  A screen shows my flight.

Then it blinks and my flight is replaced with one from New York.

Wait!  What happened to my flight?  This did not bode well.

I went back to check the flight list. That still showed the old gate.  DCA is pretty small (it started life as a regional airport), so another passenger and I check the other gates.  This part of the terminal is packed with people, so we’re navigating around people and suitcases.  Everyone is talking, so we can’t even hear the speakers.

Ah ha!  We find the missing flight.

We’re barely there a minute when the flight blanks out and is replaced by another flight.

We start hunting for the flight again, and it’s back at the original gate again.  I can feel my eyes crossing.

The flight attendants are courteous.  But I feel like all the airline is treating me like I’m a dollar sign to them.  The airlines charge to put the bags in the hold, forcing the passengers to try to bring everything on the plane.  Since it’s a commuter plane, all the rollaway bags end up in the baggage hold anyway so the passengers aren’t charged.  Really, how smart is this anyway?  (I had a backpack since I know from past experience if I have anything even slightly bigger, I might not get it into the bins because everyone is bringing such big bags).

We’re herded onto the plane like cattle.  I’m only 5’4” and the seats are too small for me.  On one of the flights, I sit next to an overweight woman who spills over into my seat.  She’s sunburned bright red from her knees down.  On another flight, I end up at the window.  Since getting out of my seat would require the passenger next to me to actually get up, I don’t get up to use the bathroom before we land (therefore, I really have to go when we do).

Flying is just chaos!  What are your horror stories?

2 thoughts on “Traveling by Air—Then and Now

  1. I haven’t flown for years, but I have fond memories of the flights. Getting to the airport was sometimes hard. Where’s my taxi?! In that case, the taxi never came, and I was really worried. What am I going to do? And out of the blue, a man–a complete stranger–offered to take me to the airport. Yes, I accepted his offer, and I got to the airport in time. I was obviously upset and maybe he asked why. I don’t remember–and maybe he knew me from the big office building in which I worked. I still don’t know.That’s certainly something I would never advise anyone to do…

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    1. If you travel again, it’s going to be unnerving and frustrating. I hadn’t flown in some time and ran smack into the TSA. They are not patient for travelers struggling to figure out the rules on the fly!

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