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Air Travel 50 years ago.

By: meerutmicro Verified Member MouthShut Verified Member | Posted Jun 11, 2024 | General | 114 Views



I abhor air travel but cannot think of any better option for travel in India. My wife and I often travel by air in economy class - crudely known as cattle class - shuttling between our home in the South to other parts of India. To keep costs under control, I scan the various offers from the low-cost airlines operating in India for the lowest prices during a particular period before booking our tickets. Usually, the seats next to the window and aisle seats come at an additional price. Seats between them come free. These are over and above the cost of the ticket for the day. This cost cum seat position jugglery by airlines is to fine-tune the ticket price the airlines could expect for providing minimum discomfort to passengers.What that means is a relative term. I have always felt they were grossly uncomfortable.




We would like to travel first class. We, don’t because it is prohibitively expensive. With persuasion from well-wishers and some indulgence on our part, with or without the occasional surprise discounts, we could consider business class if the situation is justified.


The economy class is our staple for most of our travel. It comes with innumerable inconvenience . The seats are cramped, and the space between rows is a constraint even for an average-sized Male or female. What that means could be ambiguous without first defining who is an average male or female. Whatever that could be I am not one. In any case, I hate air travel as mentioned above. This, was not the case when I first went flying.


The first time I got that chance to fly was some 59 years ago, in 1965. It was on an Indian Airlines Caravelle jet from New Delhi to Chennai - then Madras. It was the most thrilling experience I have ever had during that part of my life. After that first time, air travel turned regular to me, often at short notice and unearthly hours. I never tired of it. I enjoyed it immensely and looked forward to it every time. In the beginning, travel was within domestic destinations. I was hoping I would be lucky if I could fly abroad someday. My dreams came true one day. I flew abroad for the first time in 1983 to Europe. I have since flown within India and abroad now and then.


People who travelled by air those days were from the privileged class who could afford the high cost of flying. Before you jump to any conclusions about me, let me add I was not of that class in any sense then, now, or at any other time in my lifetime. I was just an employee of a multinational manufacturing company that knew how to balance expenses to manage their workers and keep economics under control. They believed that shuttling their staff around fast to work sites around the country plus keeping them working inside the factory with no overtime payment would be more efficient and economical than increasing their staff. The joy of travelling was a minor hidden incentive - sometimes euphemistically known as fringe benefits - for a worker like me.


I had no regrets or resentment for being used this way by my employers. I enjoyed these official travels. It included staying in luxury hotels and hobnobbing with the class of people I believed I would become someday in life. It never happened. I have no regrets on this count. I have rubbed shoulders with different classes of people all my life. I discovered I was comfortable with almost anyone, no matter who they were. Or where they came from. I was thus content where I stood. I remained as myself, with no ultimate desire to become someone else.


To day it is far different from what it was then. Times have changed, the world has changed with it, and air travel also changed. These changes are phenomenal. What it is today needs no introduction. I have no doubts my 12-year-old granddaughter knows more about modern aircraft and flying than an old coot like me. She could never have known these fifty years ago.




The elaborate pre-boarding procedures of today were nonexistent. That was an era when you could breeze through the check-in process in an airport and board a plane a few minutes before taxiing and take-off time.


It was unnecessary to arrive at the airport two hours before the scheduled departure time. The practice of emptying the contents of your cabin baggage and even your pockets at the security section. There was no such stringent security of any importance then. If there had been security checks, it was not visible, not an exhibition of human scrambling like it is today.


It was not mandatory to undergo the indignity of undressing in public gaze. Remove your belt, shoes, overcoat, etc., and walk barefoot with socks through a scan. Raise your hands above your head and hold on to your pants lest they slip down while your belt is under a scan for plastic bombs. Or put up with a uniformed stranger who went groping over your body without missing out on your private parts.


Inside the plane, you had no reason to give up smoking. It was not banned but relegated to a special smoking section. No one will tell you to switch off your mobile phones because you had no such thing


There were no restrictions on the use of electronic equipment. You could walk through all gates with your Sony Walkman cassette player strung around your neck in public gaze and sit relaxed with your favourite music. Almost everyone did it those days. The co-founder of Sony Corporation Masaru Ibuka is said to have specially designed the Walkman for his pastime inside an aircraft.


You could sit in your seat and read any of the newspapers and magazines you picked up in the airport free of charge or pick the same up inside an aircraft if you forgot to do it at the airport. The cabin crew always served sweets and gum for you to nibble or chew to relieve the air pressure inside your ears during pressurizing the aircraft. You may also smoke at the designated area in the cabin. If you have nothing better to do during a flight , you could walk into the flight deck for a quick chat with the pilots and relieve their boredom as well as your own by learning a bit more about how they fly the craft.


Airline food was a highly looked forward- to delight those days. Refreshments and meals were a sumptuous fare. Service always included a full complement of all the essential cutlery, crockery, and tableware, not plastic imitations.




When I sit in a cramped economy class seat these days, I cannot forget those nostalgic memories of the past when economy seats were as good as or even better than the business class seats of today. The comfort and luxury of those days are now probably available in the business and first-class sections today. What probably is not available may be the financial resources to the average citizen like me.


Airlines, with a skewed sense of promoting their services, started cutting costs at the cost of comfort. They offer minimum discomfort to passengers at a maximum discount. If you don’t fit into the standard seats provided, you alone are responsible or irresponsible for your outgrowth. You alone are also responsible for not making or saving enough money to raise your living standards and travel in comfort at a higher class instead of blaming the airlines for poor service.


It shows how the world developed with a twisted sense of progress. Instead of raising the standard of the lifestyle of the people, the service became substandard to cater to the have -less individuals.


As I wrote above, times have changed, and the world has changed. These are alien to me and the days of yore . I have outlived my time and so be it.






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