Over My Shoulder – Adieu à la Liberté

You young flyers accept all the TSA nonsense with aplomb. All the scrutiny of your ID’s and the groping of your privates seems perfectly natural, doesn’t it? My, oh my – where do I begin?

I began flying commercially back in 1967, at time when passengers were treated like valuable clients, customers. There was plenty of leg room and stewardesses readily served your favorite beverages. I remember even pre-ordering special meals – for no additional charge.

American Airlines Stewardesses of the 1960's
American Airlines Stewardesses of the 1960’s

To get a ticket, all you needed was m-o-n-e-y, cash, check or credit card. Airlines would even accept personal checks without a fuss. To top it all, you didn’t even have to use your real name. Can you imagine? This last feature allowed one person to hand over a ticket to a relative or friend.

Later on, there arose a problem with nuts who would highjack airliners for a free flight to the glorious workers’ paradise of Cuba. To thwart high-jackers, the government instituted rules for planes flying over either ocean or the gulf. That was the beginning of the end: Air Marshalls.

Back then, American, Eastern, Braniff International, Delta, United – all were great airlines. This is no longer so.

Today, flight attendants fear your little pocket knives. They look at all passengers. There have even been instances of “flight attendant freak-outs“. Read: Flight attendants in a duel with TSA over pocketknives

Contemporary Flight Attendants - Angry and Hard to Live With
Contemporary Flight Attendants – Angry and Hard to Live With

Personal note to all flight attendants and their union: We are the ones who actually pay your salaries and fund your benefits, you morons.

It’s just not fun anymore. I and my business associates continue to travel out of state, when necessary, but we leave the driving to us. I prefer a two-day drive across America to a commercial flight of any duration. We take podcasts, our Cannon cameras, and off we go.

In recent conversations with other seasoned travelers, we found agreement: Airline travel is no longer safe. It’s just a matter of time before one air disaster follows another – long ago they happened in threes. You don’t read the news? You don’t know there are reports weekly about near disasters due to air traffic control boo boo’s, mechanical failures or navigation errors. By year: 2011, 2012, 2013.

American and United were once great airlines. Today, I would describe them as mediocre. Math question: when you add two mediocre airlines together, what do you get? Answer: the largest mediocre airline in the world.

There was a time when we dressed up to fly. Due to federally regulated fares, airlines competed on the basis of service. We had no pornographic videos you could not turn off. There were multiple audio channels and you paid to use your earphones. Food was terrific and you could actually talk with the pilot. That time will never be again. Adieu à la liberté.

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