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Jet Blue, Steven Slater, and the future of airline courtesy

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(Read caption) A smiling flight attendant with Southwest Airlines helps passengers put their baggage in the overhead compartments.

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My wife recalls taking a flight (on her own as a teenager, no less) from Boston to New Zealand in the late 1960s.

She was handed a menu with several choices of hot meals. Each meal was served on china with silverware. (This was in coach, not first class, mind you.) When she got sleepy in the course of the 16-hour flight, she simply wandered to the back of the half-empty plane and stretched out over a row of seats.

You might still be able find these amenities on some international routes. But the US domestic airline scene has turned flying into something more dreaded than anticipated: planes packed cheek by jowl with passengers who just finished jockeying to get their belongings into the overhead bins first to avoid the fees and delays of checking baggage.

Today's US coach customers haven’t seen a hot meal in years; they’re happy if the airline is willing to sell them a cold snack.

Of course, that 1960s flight cost was a luxury, costing about $1,000, roughly $6,000 in today’s dollars. A round-trip flight today might run $1,400, or less than a quarter the cost of 40 years ago.

But flying then wasn’t a national pastime; the term “jet set” referred to the idle wealthly who could afford to be frequent fliers.

I didn’t fly in a commercial airliner until I went off to college. Today many kids have taken flights abroad as teens. Flying today is another big bus with wings.

But I’ll take today’s deregulated airline world, despite its long-gone sheen of glamor.


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