Our multi-stop trip through each decade of the aviation industry is approaching its next stop. Now that we’ve lovingly reflected back upon the groundbreaking 1930s, the explosive 1940s, the golden 1950s, the swinging 1960s and the positively intoxicated 1970s of the commercial airline industry, let’s touch down once more in an age where celebrities flew on a dedicated airline and in-flight service made a questionable detour. This is what it was like to fly in the 1980s.
“Standby…for the most extraordinary chain of events ever swept up in to high adventure!” The decade in aviation lifted off with an uproarious satire of the magic of flying that skewered the various industry tropes that had begun popping up in movies and television. The slapstick comedy gave the definitive take on the in-flight medical emergency, the paradox of the smoking section, and the chatty passenger seated next to you. The film was an elaborate exaggeration of the travails of air travel that is remembered as one of the best comedies of all time. And as such, it is impossible to talk about air travel in the ’80s, or any time, without also mentioning Airplane!
Physics-defying smoking sections
After decades of permissible smoking aboard flights, airlines finally began to wise up to the fact that not every passenger wished to emerge from their cross-country flight reeking of tobacco. And thus, the illusion of a non-smoking option was born in the form of the cabin’s non-smoking and smoking sections. And while airlines could instruct passengers to sit in the designated areas, the laws of physics unfortunately prevented any ability to also instruct the smoke itself to remain in its proper vicinity.
Smoking was a controversial subject in the ’80s, leading to both an industry-wide ban and subsequent unbanning of in-flight smoking in 1984 alone. President of the FAA-precedingCivil Aeronautics Board Dan McKinnon said of the quick policy reversal, “Philosophically, I think nonsmokers have rights, but it comes into market conflict with practicalities and the realities of life.” Such a frank remark about industry influence on something so widely understood now to be a health hazard is difficult to imagine in today’s instantly sharable, social media-saturated world.
In-flight tours of the flight deck
For thousands of ’80s babies — myself included — a first flight aboard a commercial airplane wasn’t complete until a flight attendant whisked you up front to the cockpit for an introduction to the captain and a tour of the buzzing and whirring machinery. Inviting children, or people at all, into the area of the plane from which the pilot was actively controlling the aircraft sounds like something out of a fantasy novel in our post-9/11 world, and yet thousands of grateful fliers share memories of the experience. Thankfully, pilots or flight attendants would routinely pin commemorative wings upon kids to mark their trip up front, proving that the practice wasn’t just some fever dream we all collectively imagined.
Modern day pro-tip: Many airlines still offer wings for children on their first flights. Ask your FA if any are tucked away onboard somewhere.
Dedicated airlines for the people … and the very important people
Each of the decades prior had airlines synonymous with their respective eras. TWA and Pan Am are practically synonymous with the 1950s, Aeroflot was ascendant in the ’60s, and the so-called “route of the aristocrats”, Southern Airways practically screams‘70s. A pair of airlines kept up the tradition in the ’80s, but via entirely different business plans.
People Express was the dominant low-cost carrier of the decade, albeit one fondly remembered for a welcome twist on the LCC business model that we’ve come to expect today. People Express paired their ultra-low prices with phenomenal first-class customer service that people still rave about to this very day. Talk about making a lasting impression!
At the other end of the price spectrum, but no less synonymous with the over-the-top ’80s,MGM Grand Air built a fan-favorite airline essentially around a single route between Los Angeles and New York. Billionaire playboy Kirk Kerkorian purchased a small, six-plane fleet in the mid-’80s, and gutted their 110 seat cabins, before retrofitting them with just 33 ultra-posh loungers. A-list celebrities and studio executives instantly flocked to the new airline. Madonna, Diana Ross, Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Julia Roberts andRobert De Niro were frequently spotted indulging in silver trays of caviar aboard what became the most exclusive nightclub in the world — even on the morning flights.
While neither airline ultimately survived the spate of mergers, acquisitions and bankruptciesthat pared the airline industry down to the handful of remaining players that exist today, both People Express and MGM Grand Air left a lasting impression on the industry.
Delays before the age of transparency
Without cellphones, there was no cellphone waiting area. And that was the least of the infrastructural absences that today’s travelers might find difficult to maneuver. No cellphones also meant no flight-tracking apps. Expectant family and friends would simply show up to the airport at the posted time of arrival. And if the plane wasn’t there — well then it simply wasn’t there, and thus the potentially hours-long waiting game began.
Security? What security?
Amidst the modern age’s labyrinthine airport check-in process, it can be difficult to even imagine a time when most of today’s airport security apparatus didn’t exist. In the 1980s, not only were passengers relatively free to roam about the airport after briefly passing through a metal detector — with their shoes on — but family and friends were welcome to join departing passengers all the way up to the departure gate. Likewise, many a weary traveler was greeted the second they stepped off the plane by adoring loved ones, who were permitted to walk all the way through the airport without a ticket to make a proper welcome. The specter of threatening liquids, body scanner radiation and underwear bombs was still more than a decade away.
While we may rue the devolution of in-flight meals, seat pitch, and loss of airline options when booking, the starkest contrast between flying in the 1980s and today is without a doubt the loss of airport innocence that we unfortunately experienced following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A New Orleans outfit revealed plans Tuesday for the nation’s latest start-up carrier. GLO will launch this November, connecting New Orleans to three cities in the USA’s “Mid-South” region.
GLO will fly nonstop from New Orleans to Memphis, Little Rock and Shreveport, La., with 30-seat Saab 340B turbo props. The airline will offer two daily round-trip flights on weekdays and one on weekends for each of the three routes.
The New Orleans-based company hopes to appeal to customers who need to travel between cities within the nation’s Gulf Coast and “Mid-South” region.
Memphis and New Orleans, for example, are two of the region’s biggest cities. But travelers going between the cities must either make an 800-mile round-trip drive or take a connecting flight via a hub like Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston.
“These cities right now are basically not reachable, for – say – a day trip,” New Orleans lawyer and GLO founder Trey Fayard says to WDSU TV of New Orleans. “All of our services will allow you to go to these cities and back in the same day– conduct your business, see your family, whatever you like to do … and be back in time for dinner. So that was our motivation for what we’re doing with GLO.
“The need to drive results in an enormous waste of valuable time and loss of productivity driving to destinations that should have air service,” GLO adds via its website.
Fares will start at $163 each way. GLO will allow each ticketed passenger to bring up to three bags and one personal item at no extra charge. GLO’s public charter flights will be operated by Corporate Flight Management, a Tennessee-based charter outfit.
Flights to Little Rock will launch Nov. 15 while flights to Shreveport and Memphis begin Nov. 29, according to GLO’s website.
GLO’s upcoming nonstops to New Orleans are being received enthusiastically in the three other cities. In Shreveport, the flights will give the city its first nonstop link to New Orleans since 2004.
“Of all the requests for different routes we get, New Orleans is always up there near the top,” Mark Crawford, Shreveport Regional Airport Authority spokesman, says to The Timesof Shreveport.
Crawford anticipated most traveling on the service will be corporate travelers, saying: “We get a lot lawyers, medical professionals and others who travel down south often so we expect to see this used more in the business community.”
Still, Crawford adds there may be a market for leisure traffic, too. He cited north Louisiana residents traveling to New Orleans for sporting events in or near the city
A US-based passenger rights group is calling on authorities to ban airlines from further reducing the size of seats on planes.
FlyersRights.org says the diminishing size of seats and shrinking legroom has become an ‘intolerable situation’ for passengers.
It has asked the Federal Aviation Administration, which has similar powers to the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK, to block any further downsizing.
The group has delivered a petition with more than 30,000 signatures to FAA chief Michael Huerta asking for minimum standards for legroom and seat width.
“The shrinkage of seats and passenger space by airlines to generate higher profits while the size of passengers has substantially increased has created an intolerable crisis situation,” the petition said.
“It is threatening the health, safety and comfort of all passengers.”
The FAA responded by saying the petition would be assessed in ‘an appropriate time frame.’
There are no rules governing standards for seat legroom or width by the U.S. Department of Transportation, or in the UK for that matter, only that passengers have sufficient room to quickly evacuate in an emergency situation.
A Transportation Department advisory committee met last week to discuss consumer issues in commercial aviation but did not address the size of seating, only urging airlines to disclose seat dimensions at point of sale.
One committee member Charles Leocha supports the petition and pointed to a government directive that regulates minimum space requirements for dogs travelling on airplanes but not humans.
“I was very disappointed that we didn’t come up with a committee recommendation on personal space on aircraft,” Leocha said.
The airline industry trade group Airlines for America rejected the idea and said government action is unnecessary.
“We believe that government should not regulate airline seat sizes, but instead market forces and competition should determine what is offered,” said A4A spokeswoman Jean Medina.
Florida governor Rick Scott said the state set a new record for tourism in the first half of this year, with 54.1 million visitors.
It is the highest number for any six month period, state tourism agency Visit Florida said, with a 5.8% increase in visitors from January to June.
It puts the Sunshine State firmly on track to reach 100 million visitors for the calendar year.
“We are excited to mark the first half of 2015 with our biggest second quarter ever, and we look forward to exceeding our goal of 100 million visitors to Florida this year,” said Gov. Scott.
Domestic arrivals were up 6.7% to 21.9 million while overseas tourists increased marginally to 3.9 million during the second quarter.
“Our growing tourism industry employs over 1.2 million Floridians and is helping us meet our goal of becoming the best place in the world for jobs,” Scott added at a media presentation at Miami International Airport.
Job creation in the hospitality industry state wide rose nearly 5% in the second quarter, Scott said.
Luckily, a number of airlines are delivering new cabin classes this year to get excited about.
Korean Air Prestige Suites
As someone with an over-active bladder, being trapped in a window seat on a long flight gives me anxiety. Which is why I find Korean Air’s new Prestige Suites really exciting — you have enough space to walk around your seatmates without waking them up to use the toilet. And there are other features, too: 22.5-inch-wide seats (the average is 17.2), an ottoman foot rest and a 75-to-87-inch seat pitch (compared to the average 31-inch airline pitch). Since last month, Korean Air’s Prestige Suites are being used on flights to Singapore, and are being installed on all new aircraft.
Air Astana’s Economy Sleeper Class
If you thought actually getting sleep in economy was a far fetched dream, Air Astana’s new Economy Sleeper Class turns your fantasies into reality. Launched this month, the sleeper class allows you to enjoy a mattress, pillow and duvet, plus amenities like eye masks, socks, mouthwash and earplugs. By the end of the month, this class will be available on flights from Kazakhstan to London, Frankfurt, Paris and Hong Kong.
3. Singapore Airline’s Premium Economy Class
While tickets for Singapore Airline’s new Premium Economy Class went on sale this February, the first passengers to experience it will be flying from Singapore to Sydney this August. With over $80 million spent on the project, top features include fully leather seats reaching 19.5 inches wide, 8-inch recline, calf rest, foot bar, power stations, and extra compartments for holding water bottles, laptops and cell phone. Inflight entertainment also gets an upgrade, with the installation of larger 13.3-inch HD monitors and active noise-cancellation headphones. For the first time, premium economy passengers will be able to select from a menu with three meal choices from the popular Singapore Airlines service, Book the Cook. Beyond the range of food options, passengers will also be invited to sip champagne or a selection of curated wines. With all the new amenities, Singapore Airlines is situated to become the leader in affordable luxury travel.
SAS “Erik Viking”
SAS debuted its sleek and smart new long-haul cabins — dubbed “Erik Viking” — February 17 on a flight from Copenhagen to Newark (this new class will mostly be available on flights to the U.S.). Three different cabins have been revamped, each with its own special features, like direct aisle access, full flat beds, massage seats, and luxury bedding. All have personal power stations, on-demand entertain systems with 9-15 inch screens and Wi-Fi capabilities.
Bonus: Cathay Pacific’s new business class seat
Cathay Pacific’s new business class seat actually won’t launch until February 2016, but you should still get excited. While photos aren’t yet available and very few details are known, the airline will be making use of their Airbus 350 fleet to offer upgraded flatbed seats, nicknamed “FB2+,” made by Zodiac Aerospace with design help from the Porsche Design Group. Stay tuned for more details are they unfold.
Tough new laws enacted in the California beach town of Santa Monica cracking down on short-term vacation rental operators could wipe out about 80% of listings on home-sharing sites like Airbnb and HomeAway.
Due to come into effect today, Santa Monica’s new law says home owners can only rent out space in their homes if they themselves are staying there.
City Hall estimates that could affect as many as 1,400 of the 1,700 short-term rental listings.
The rules, some of the strictest in the country, have been passed to stop businesses from managing multiple homes purely for short-term rental income, decreasing the housing supply and sending real estate prices and rents even higher.
“Our city council thought that it was important to intervene and return rentals to the housing market,” said Salvador Valles, assistant director of planning and community development.
Any homeowner violating the rule will be hit by a $500 fine, Valdes said.
Hosts are required to apply for a business license at no cost and business tax would not be levied on rental income below $40,000 a year.
However hosts would still pay 14% occupancy tax.
Lawmakers have agreed to a ‘grace period’ and will not enforce the rule immediately as many bookings have already been taken for the summer at homes that would likely fall foul of the new law.
The law has been described as “a tragic mistake and a missed opportunity” by Robert St. Genis of the Los Angeles Short Term Rental Alliance.
“The law hurts a lot of people that it’s not intended to hurt. It hurts the family that’s used to being able to take a vacation using the money from renting out their home for the summer.”
“There have been vacation rentals by the beach as long as there have been houses by the beach.”
Airlines have agreed an ‘optimum size’ guideline for carry-on bags designed to make the best use of cabin storage space.
A size of 55 x 35 x 20 cm (or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches) means that “theoretically” everyone should have a chance to store their carry-on bags on board aircraft of 120 seats or larger, according to Iata.
An ‘Iata Cabin OK’ logo to signify to airline staff that a bag meets the agreed size guidelines has been developed.
A number of major international airlines will soon be introducing the guidelines into their operations.
Bags carrying the identifying label are expected start to become available to buy later this year.
Recognition of the logo is expected to grow with time as more airlines join the initiative.
Iata is working with baggage tracking solutions provider Okoban to manage the approval process of luggage manufacturers.
Each bag meeting the dimensions of the specifications will carry a special joint label featuring Iata and Okoban as well as a unique identification code that signals to airline staff that the bag complies with the optimum size guidelines.
Several major baggage manufacturers have developed products in line with the optimum size guidelines.
Iata senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security, Tom Windmuller, said: “The development of an agreed optimal cabin bag size will bring common sense and order to the problem of differing sizes for carry-on bags.
“We know the current situation can be frustrating for passengers. This work will help to iron out inconsistencies and lead to an improved passenger experience.
Passenger detained for penning ‘threatening’ suicide note aboard plane
A passenger was removed from an Austin-bound flight about to take off from San Francisco after a quick thinking seatmate alerted flight crew to a potential suicide threat.
Passenger Vicki Riffe noticed a man scribbling furiously into a notebook that he planned to kill himself and take others with him.
“He started writing extremely fast — with anger. I was scared to death,” Riffe told the NY Daily News.
After alerting crew, the plane returned to the gate and the man was removed by police.
Sniffer dogs were also deployed in the cabin before it was given the all-clear to fly.
Virgin America confirmed the incident with a statement: “Just after taxi out, a Virgin America flight carrying 108 guests returned to the gate at SFO due to onboard reports from guests concerned about the behavior of a fellow passenger.”
“Preliminary reports indicate that the guest made no threat to the safety of the aircraft or any other passenger onboard.”
After fellow passengers were fully informed of the nature of the hold-up, about a dozen opted not to travel.
The plane then took off about one hour behind schedule and landed in Austin without incident.
San Francisco police said the man is being medically evaluated.
While the current focus is aimed squarely at the Gulf carriers of Etihad Airways, Emirates and Qatar Air, Chinese carriers pose a far greater threat for US airlines, according to a report by aviation intelligence firm OAG.
US and Gulf carriers have been trading barbs over the issue of ‘unfair’ subsidies provided to the Gulf carriers.
However, China will replace the US as the largest aviation market in the next seven years, OAG’s ‘The Fight for Global Markets’ report claims.
John Grant, executive vice-president at OAG, says Chinese carriers such as China Southern, China Eastern and Air China could become the new ‘big three’, fuelled by fast growing domestic markets.
“Whilst it is perhaps impossible to predict the future of the airline industry, the evidence suggests that China, and also Indonesia and Turkey might be the places where three globally dominant airlines are based in 10 years’ time, benefiting as they do from large domestic markets, growing economies and advantageous geographic position,” he said.