Remember the time when it was not only easy, but care-free and enjoyable to travel by air? What happened?!
I can honestly say that I have probably spent most of my life within an airport or airplane and have been able to see and experience the ever changing life of air travel within the last 30 some-odd years.
If it wasn’t for 9/11 and future terrorist attacks inflight, air travel would most likely have remained with the same ease, but one cannot expect a good thing to last forever. Especially with what governments do in the backdrop without the public’s knowledge.
Just to have an idea of some of what we travelers had and what we have had to put up with up until now:
1) I appreciated and miss that your family and/or loved ones were able to accompany you to your gate prior to boarding. You would have someone to talk to while you waited and keep you company. Parents would not have to leave unaccompanied minors in the care of flight crew until boarding time and family/friend(s) on the other end could pick the child up immediately after exiting the plane. Even the romantic love stories at airports, as seen in films as well, are a thing of the past.
2) You could bring certain daily objects/items through security and on the plane without a hassle, having to throw them away, or having them seized beforehand: i.e., Water (biggest loss after 9/11), liquids over 30mL, nail file, knitting needles, and the list goes on.
3) In-flight service. Ah, the wonderful in-flight service. Where you could get most things for free. From packets of airline logo-ed playing cards to blankets and pillows (more than one, if you needed it).
4) Security lines went faster, as people didn’t have to disrobe everything until they were down to the last layer, as we did and still do in some countries after 9/11.
5) You could actually go onto the Tarmac with no issues.
6) Prices for tickets were significantly cheaper. And another thing I strongly miss is that, pre-9/11, one-way tickets were cheaper than roundtrip tickets. Makes sense, right? Well, not anymore! Now, one-ways are more expensive than roundtrip tickets! No sense at all and hurtful on one’s pocket.
7) Children/teens could be taken by a steward/ess inside the cock-pit to meet the pilot/co-pilot and check-out how they run things – giving them Wings afterwards as a form of membership pin to make children feel involved with the novelty of flying. I still have all my Wings!
Although, if you even dare go close to a cock-pit now when the door is open, even to have a quick-peak inside, you are immediately redirected back to your seat.
Just after 9/11:
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in Canada, Europe, Mexico, and the USA the following rules applied from and up to around 4-8 years after 9/11:
1) Only people with tickets for that travel day may enter the line for security and your loved ones cannot come with you to the gate (this is still the case now).
2) Unaccompanied minors have to wait pre-security for a person from the airport/airline to retrieve them prior to entering security and sometimes just leave these children unaccompanied at the gate they are supposed to depart from with a tag around their neck detailing who they are and what flight they are traveling on (not the smartest or safest decision in my opinion, but hey – they are still doing it now, so they must be doing something right – as I have yet to hear about an airport losing a child… that I know of).
3) There were 3-4 security check-points from when you arrived at the airport (if you don’t count the police outside with hand-mirror sticks to look under entering vehicles).
4) Security personnel were given the authority by government to act like police during this time of crisis and told to pull aside and search people who “looked like or gave an air of being a terrorist.” (what great instructions). US TSA agents were even given the authority to act like Homeland Security agents by President Bush – when they really needed not to be in most cases.
The power went to some of their heads. Even though we were all assured that security pulls were ‘random,’ they were not. I swear, I was pulled at every check-point (all 4 of them), every time I traveled by air. I am Italian, so I have Mediterranean-olive skin and somewhat dark features. However, to insinuate that I am a terrorist at every check-point is a bit racist and insulting, especially when at the time, I was flying on 1-2 airplanes a day for work/pleasure – and sometimes traveling again to the same airports within the same week. And when they searched you – they not only searched you physically, which could be quite embarrassing when you were displayed in front of a huge crowd, but sometimes they dumped your bag out to see the contents – and you are left to put your suitcase/bag back together again (on occasion losing/not seeing things dumped out).
I will never forget one experience (even though there are SO many to speak of):
I was flying out of an airport in Washington, DC, USA. I got to the airport 2 hours early (for a domestic flight), went through the first 2 checkpoints, and managed to reach my gate when they were half-way through boarding. Sweating, I was hoping I would not be checked again – and saw only one more check-point, so figured I was safe. How wrong I was. Of course, I got pulled at this 3rd checkpoint – even though I was the 5th to last person needing to board the plane at this point. I groaned quietly, but pressed on. At a certain point of my search, the airline agent came up to the officer and asked if he was almost done, as I was the last person now needing to get on to the plane and they had a strict schedule to follow to meet their departure time gap. The officer slowly completed his search and told me that there was one more checkpoint on the ground route to the airplane, but that he/they would contact that person to inform them to not pull me again, as the plane needed to depart ASAP and they needed to get me on to that plane (I was feeling the same way). However, when I was running past the woman at the 4th checkpoint, she yelled at me to stop and told me to come back, as she needs to pull me aside for a check. I was furious and afraid I was going to miss my flight or be the cause for a delay – I was not about to be put in that situation. Evil glares from fellow passengers can be quite daunting when walking into a full flight. So, I immediately explained what the officer/agent upstairs had told me and that I had already been through 3 checkpoints with no issues. Her response: “I never received such a call.” and proceeded with her searching. (Great.) At this point, the boiling bubbles in my head were fuming and I had to ask: “Why did you pull me?”
…I was flabbergasted to hear her response: “Because you look like one of them.” …WOW!… Could she even say this to me?! If you thought these searches were random – they were not.
These stringent rules affected more people like me, who flew for work on a daily basis. A nightmare at times.
5) Due to less people traveling from fear, the free stuff became chargeable since airlines were losing money, just to maintain the planes when not as many people were using them. Pillows and blankets weren’t free anymore ($5 each in USA)
1) Barely anything is free anymore, even if the cost of flights has tripled from what it used to be (specifically due to taxes set forth after 9/11 by Goverments).
2) They don’t even offer playing cards anymore – I assume this is due to the technological boom within the last two decades. However, pillows/blankets?! Some airlines have changed the rules a bit and will now give you one (and only one) free pillow and blanket, if flying time is more than 4-6 hours (depending on the airline).
3) In the EU, you are now allowed to wear your shoes again through security, unless you are wearing boots – then in which case, you will have to take them off and put them through the X-Ray.
The US has not yet applied this rule, as since they have had more shoe-bomb incidents in the past, but now some states will allow children under the age of 12 to retain their shoes on their feet.
4) I also can’t tell you how much money I have wasted on replacing seized or forced-to-throw-out items, particularly within my connections, where you have to go through an additional security line and lose everything you’ve accumulated at your first airport or on first airplane.
I still find airports and airplanes a home-away-from-home, but it’s like living with a disgruntled Mother-in-Law.
Please feel free to share any other related airline/airport experiences you have come across or things you miss from air travel in the Comments section below. I would love to read about them.