In total, I’ve probably spent the equivalent of three years of my life traveling, with a significant portion of that time hanging out in airports around the world. I can tell you where to find the best smelling bathroom soap, which bars pour the best margaritas, and which gates have the most power outlets. While I’ve racked up enough points, miles and status to flash through security and get the best seat on the plane, the moment the free peanut package drops on my tray I realize how much the customer experience has changed.
Long gone are the days of iffy airline meals and iffier blankets, but what about the proverbial “good old days,” when airlines actually gave away gilt-edge playing cards, elegant china tea cups, crystal salt and pepper shakers, sets of silver, collectible figurines, and even glass Christmas ornaments? My grandma practically has American Airlines-provided gear in every room of her home – all with the logo tastefully placed out of sight. I have a plastic card from Southwest that I flash when I walk through security… and all the free peanuts that I desire.
While domestic air transportation is no longer the luxury it once was, I do feel a little cheated having been born in the generation whose big industry breakthrough was no longer having to pay for headsets. I miss the blankets, I miss the movies, and I even miss the cute little cubic meal system that separated my dark-meat chicken and pasta from my fruit cocktail.
Yet the new airline era is here so we may as well embrace what we do have: the creative, comedic,and sometimes even melodic spins on the standard seat-cushion-is-flotation-device-spiel from Southwest; the WiFi on American, pretty much anything happening on Virgin America, and of course, the all-you-can-eat peanut buffet.