Interesting question in the post title, which for a lot of people is probably true unless the fly on a luxury airline, internationally, or in first class. This is the question posed by author Christopher Schaberg in his new book, entitled The End of Airports.
During the golden age of passenger air travel, which I was fortunate enough to experience the tail end (bad pun) of, flying on domestic airlines was indeed glamorous. Instead of being shoe-horned into the aircraft like Tokyo subway train at rush hour, we had healthy legroom. Instead of being subjected to minute-by-minute fare changes by a few airlines, rates were stable and competitive between multiple airlines. Instead of being subjected to potentially lengthy security protocols, you could leisurely arrive at the airport and stroll to your gate. Instead of being shuttled between hubs, you often flew direct. Instead of being served peanuts or pretzels (if you are lucky for free), you actually received a full meal. And instead of having to drive hours to the nearest major airport, you could fly a regional airline into the larger airport.
Granted, security issues have changed some of these dynamics, but perhaps some of this loss of glamour is also due in part to the novelty of the air travel experience having worn off. Today’s younger generations have grown up with air travel being virtually an everyday occurrence. It wasn’t always that way – it used to be a special and eagerly anticipated event for most of us. It is a sad commentary to note that much of today’s domestic air service is essentially tantamount to intercity bus service. Been there, done that – just get me there.
However, I think a large part of the issue also comes from air travel being treated as a commodity instead of a service. Once the bean counters took charge, the luster of flying began to wane.
I still look forward to flying half a dozen or so times a year, but it is not the same as used to be, with the exception of international flights where one can still be treated like royalty (depending on the airline), even in economy.
Mr. Schaberg does a nice job of describing and chronicling these sorts of issues and adds unique tidbits of his personal reflections about airport operations and air travel since he once worked at the Bozeman, Montana airport. His book is an interesting read, though it does sadden me to reflect on all those finer aspects of flying that we have lost in the name(s) of efficiency, security, economy, modernity, and money.