"The way you walk, the way you talk, what you eat, how you speak,
how you put on your makeup and how you get out of bed — everything
changes," Former Pan Am Stewardess
I started watching ABC’s new series “Pan Am” last night andit got me thinking. How did we get here? Not that long ago, during the Jet Age,air travel was a luxurious experience. Apparently the nostalgia wore off. Airlines have survived by raising prices while simultaneously diminishing their offerings. Airlines point the finger at government regulations, oil prices, competition, unions, etc. I don’t buy the excuses. There are several airlines that manage to offer exceptional service under the same conditions. Let’s compare Pan Am in its height to the commercial flying experience today.
- Industry innovator credited with making international travel accessible, popularizing the jumbo jet, creating a computerized reservation system, and fighting gender discrimination (one of the first to eliminate age limits and allow Stewardesses to marry).
- Airline employees and passengers took pride in their flight appearance and wardrobe.
- Stewardesses adhered to strict grooming, makeup, and hair standards. They were also required to meet height and weight requirements. Physical appearance wasn’t the only focus. Applicants had to be fluent in a foreign language and have completed at least two years of college.
- Trans-Atlantic flights commenced with cocktails followed by a seven-course meal for all passengers, not just first class. Dining was lavish, from the linens and tableware to the artist designed menus and exclusive French wines.
- Flying is a privilege and luxury.
- Industry innovations include finding creativeways to charge for things that were once free, creating marginally rewarding frequent travel programs, and avoiding accountability.
- Airline employees and passengers take very little pride in their flight appearance. Crew attire consists of airline issued uniforms designed in the 1980’s. Personal upkeep is optional, hostile attitude is a requirement. Most passengers’ looks like they just rolled out of bed and have equally bad attitudes.
- Flight attendants behaviors and attitudes are wildly inconsistent from one airline to another and class of service. Very few seem to enjoy their job and have very little patience dealing with passengers.
- The internet is the accepted platform to air your grievances (thank you Upgrd blog) and expose atrocities that are now commonplace when flying.
- First class passengers are served meals only on flights that occur during specific times and meet a minimum flight length. There are no linens, plastic or cheap silver tableware, microwaved unidentifiable food, but there is free alcohol! The only thing complimentary in domestic coach class is non-alcoholic beverages and a small bag of pretzels, peanuts, or cookies. For a price you can buy food and alcohol.
- Passengers are charged for checked bags,carry-on bags, overweight bags, on-board entertainment, earphones, wi-fi,food, alcohol, flight changes… I’m sure I missed a few.
- Passengers are frustrated by the rising ticket prices, additional charges, poor customer service, delayed/cancelled flights, inconsistent and unnecessary TSA rules, and the list goes on.
- Transportation Security Administration.
- Flying is an ends to a mean.
So who is to blame? Airlines and airline employees are equally responsible for creating a culture of bad service and excuses, but passengers should bear some burden for their bad behavior. On my Delta flight this weekend the flight attendant announced that a military personal onboard watched Pan Am and wanted to give her job a try. A couple minutes later the soldier appeared with the Delta apron over his fatigues walking down the aisle to collect our trash. He was met with cheers and clapping from everyone in the cabin. Maybe the Pan Am show will remind everyone that flying is still fun.