radiocheck
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What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 1:53 am

Being born after de-regulation of the airlines, and having seen the changes in travel since 9/11 have inspired me to ask the question "What was it like, in the golden age of Flight?"

Can anyone relay first hand accounts, or stories from the yesteryear of aviation history?

rc

[Edited 2007-06-15 19:22:17]
 
Crewchief
Posts: 69
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:13 am

Ah, the golden age of airliner travel in the US, an age when you could walk directly from the ticket counter to the gate, with no TSA to intervene. An age when a friend could board to "see you off", and deplane before departure. An age before jetways and doors on overhead bins, and deplaning was sometimes through the stairs in the rear of the aircraft.

Best of all, an age when US airlines used passenger service to differentiate themselves (they had to, they all had to charge the same so price differentiation wasn't an option). A passenger could call reservations and a friendly human answered the call. Lines were short. Food was served. Load factors were low, so on-board space frequently was more than adequate.

And every passenger was supposed to be treated well -- not like today, when airline policy is to treat some like kings and most others like something an airline executive stepped in. Employees were valued too -- the airline offered them careers instead of jobs. And passengers were more understanding of airline troubles, such as snow at ORD.

Air travel was much more civilized all around.

Those of us old enough to remember know how far we've fallen. And don't blame the fall on 9-11, the fall started long before.
 
davescj
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:19 am

Quoting Crewchief (Reply 1):
An age when a friend could board to "see you off", and deplane before departure

I can remember when I was young, family and friends coming on board with me. I remember they would ask "visitors" to deplane towards the end of boarding. I remember the first time when I was flying alone (I guess about 10?) and my Mom was no longer allowed on the plane before it left....I guess that was mid 80's.

I can remember people smoking on th plane -- but I don't remember the smell of smoke.

I can remember REAL meals in coach and always for kids, a visit to the cockpit.

I can also remember beer was $3 in Y.

Those were the days.
Can I have a mojito on this flight?
 
nateDAL
Posts: 404
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:21 am

Prohibitively expensive for most people. Fewer choices. Fewer frequencies.

Good riddence.

But, hey...you did get rubbery chicken included in the cost of your ticket.

[Edited 2007-06-15 21:22:18]
Set Love Free
 
707lvr
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:25 am

Ah, a chance for us old-timers to sound off about the good old days .. but Crewchief already said it all: so much more civilized.
 
ikramerica
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:26 am

Expensive. For the elite in the country, not the masses.

Smoking smoking smoking.

Bad schedules.

Large planes on short routes (cool!).

First class was not much more than Y in price.
Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
 
N2DCaves
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:30 am

Ice cream sundae buffet bars in the back of UA coach class DC-10's (ORD-LAX)! ~ 1972  veryhappy 

Ciagarette smoke drifting through the cabin.  vomit 
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
 
stapleton
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:52 am

Great Service, Expensive fares, flights were a lot emptier, on-time had less importance but easier to accomplish, often had to change airlines enroute (since none of the airlines had systems anywhere like they do now), more through flights, longer connection times, awesome food (my opinion the steak and lobster on Frontier between Denver and Dallas was the best), in general frienlier employees (because they often didn't have to work as hard as they do now for a more decent wage).

Some will say they were the good old days, but those good old days only applied to a select few. The majority of travelers were male and on business. Families were fewer and further between. If I could have the best of the past with the best of the present, I'd certainly take it but we have to be realistic, that won't happen. For me, I'd take lower fares over the higher service level because you do get what you pay for but if you can't afford the level of service, is it really better. I love to fly and I'll take 3 trips with mediocre service over 1 with excellent service any time but I love to travel and the more I can, the happier I am.
 
dfwmzuri
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:50 am

Quoting Crewchief (Reply 1):
Air travel was much more civilized all around.

Many other activities were also much "more civilized," in my opinion, back before 1978.

Quoting N2DCaves (Reply 6):
Ciagarette smoke drifting through the cabin.

I remember a flight in Australia once where I was seated in the "No Smoking" section, aisle seat, and across the aisle from me was "Smoking." I didn't care for that!

Quoting NateDAL (Reply 3):
Good riddence.

Agree!
 
detroitflyer
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:58 am

Quoting Crewchief (Reply 1):
Ah, the golden age of airliner travel in the US, an age when you could walk directly from the ticket counter to the gate, with no TSA to intervene.

does that mean there was no security @ all???

Quoting Davescj (Reply 2):
I can remember when I was young, family and friends coming on board with me. I remember they would ask "visitors" to deplane towards the end of boarding.

nice......i dont see that ever happening again.

Anways....if you really want to expericnce the golden age of travel....just fly international or outside Europe and the US ....----high prices, friendlier service, FOOD......LOl


everyone keeps saying it was really expensive.....does any one have any examples of how expensive it was compared to today?? Cuz that would be really interesing....for me anywayz
Boiler Up!!!
 
ikramerica
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:03 am

Quoting Detroitflyer (Reply 9):
does that mean there was no security @ all???

Nope, other than some airport police officers. And YES, there were BOMBS and people DIED. And considering the massive increase in flights between the 60s and 2000s, anyone who thinks the security isn't working is foolish. As security has increased, bombings originating in the USA have all but ended, despite all the holes and ineptness and exponential increase in flight volume. Because some security is still more secure than no security.
Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
 
Crewchief
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:23 am

Quoting DFWMzuri (Reply 8):
Quoting Crewchief (Reply 1):
Air travel was much more civilized all around.

Many other activities were also much "more civilized," in my opinion, back before 1978.

Quoting NateDAL (Reply 3):
Good riddence.

Agree with DFWMzuri, disagree with NateDL. Civilized behavior is valuable, and should be encouraged.
 
EXAAUADL
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:30 am

My mom use to make me wear a suit, my sister a dress. WE almost always for a hot meal on most flightsover one hour...flights were rarely full....connecting was difficult as it meant having to switch airlines and in some cases terminals.
 
GRIVely
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:35 am

I enjoyed reading some of the other descriptions provided by other "old hands" so I thought I would add some thoughts from my perspective as a young aviation enthusiast in the 1950's.

The thing that most people forget is how very few persons had ever flown on an airplane in, say, 1955. I think the figure was less than 10% of Americans had ever been on an airplane, including those who had flown in the military. My father was an Air Force officer and when we changed station we always went by train, even all the way across the country. I got to ride on a lot of the famous American long distance trains but I assure you, looking out of the Vista observation car paled after the third day. America is BIG and four or five days from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco was a real drag. Even in a pullman sleeper.

But back to planes. The first time I was on a plane was when we flew across the Atlantic on a C-117, the military version of a DC-7. Wasn't too luxurious but it only took four hours from Dover to Gander (to fuel) and then 10 hours or so across the North Atlantic droning along at about 20,000 feet flying through the lightning before landing in Prestwick, Scotland. People smoking, people getting sick. Not exactly luxury on a Military Air Transport Service (MATS) plane. Oh, and four hours more to our final destination, Tripoli, Libya. Was quite an adventure for me but my mother and sisters thought it was horrible. But considering the same journey by troopship would have likely been around 15 days that was a real bargain.

By 1960 we had Super-Constellations and civilian DC-7's and the first 707's were around. I did get to fly several times on Viscounts and they were quite comfortable. You didn't have fold down trays. When the stewardess (no one said flight attendant then) brought you your lunch it was on a tray and she put a pillow on your lap to eat it from. There was no such thing as a smoking section and people all over the cabin would smoke, knock back a few mixed drinks or beers and find ways to entertain themselves. (No IFE) As a young lad I was always invited to go to the flight deck and hang out with the cockpit crew. I usually sat in the jumpseat between the pilots and chatted with the flight engineer.

Someone asked about cost. I am sure you can find some examples of ticket prices but that is not very meaningful unless you know how much money people made at the time. The reason you didn't fly very much was because it was so very expensive. My father took home about $600 a month in 1959 and a round-trip ticket from Raleigh, NC to Chicago was about $150. With a family of four that was a month's pay before you even booked a hotel or paid for the family to eat. Needless to say, we didn't fly on any vacations. It was 12 hours driving in our 1959 Edsel Ranger. In the back seat with my two sisters. (No IFE)

I never got to fly business class or first class until much later in my life. Of course, there wasn't any business class on airplanes until Pan Am invented it in the early 1970's. Since Pan Am's aircraft were called "Clippers" their special class was called Clipper class. Which, in case you wondered, is why many of us old hands still talk about "C" instead of "J."


Regards,

The GRIV
 
lostturttle
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:47 am

Deregulation did not stop smoking but do you remember the smoking and non smoking rows........................did it make a difference?

I still recall airfares being reasonable though, at least from Bermuda to the east coast That and the ticket was FULLY REFUNDABLE!

Lots of interesting articles on line, just google and read.

"In the 27 years before airline deregulation, no airline had gone bankrupt. Since 1978, 130 airlines have come and gone. In the past quarter-century, the rate of bankruptcy among air carriers has been as much as 10 times higher than among the general business community. In 2005, most major airlines are either in bankruptcy (United, US Air) or on the verge of bankruptcy (Delta, NWA)."

"So let's split the difference and say deregulation has resulted in a 10 percent ticket-price reduction. That's the benefit. What's the cost?

In 1978, when you bought a ticket, it was fully refundable. You could change flights without penalties. There were no requirements for Saturday stay-overs.

Cheaper fares, more hassles

Today most people who receive steep discounts spend more time on the road, either staying over extra days or traveling from more distant airports. People fly into Baltimore or Dulles airports rather than Washington National. They save money on the ticket, and spend another hour or so and $30 more for the cab.

Airline passengers have saved 10 percent, but hundreds of thousands of people have either lost their jobs or lost their job security or their pensions."

http://www.ilsr.org/columns/2005/082805.html
 
ikramerica
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 7:42 am

Quoting Lostturttle (Reply 14):
Airline passengers have saved 10 percent, but hundreds of thousands of people have either lost their jobs or lost their job security or their pensions.

This is false.

Just because you find some articles that make claims doesn't mean it's so.

This is an article with a big government/union agenda.

There are MORE airline employees now than in 1978, so that means ZERO jobs have been lost net. Yes, some people have lost jobs due to GROWTH that was too fast AFTER deregulation, but that is not the same thing. Right after 1978, there was a flood of capital into the market and new entrants arrived while old airlines struggled. This happens a lot when an industry is deregulated. You can't look at the bad and ignore the good.

The USA domestic airline fleet has ballooned over the years, and every one of those planes has to be flown, cleaned, and maintained. That means aviation jobs have been created, but like any non-regulated industry, job security is not what it once was. Would things have grown as quickly without deregulation? No. Thus overall, there would be fewer airline jobs today.

Which is better: 100 people working all the time and being overpaid, or 200-350 people working at any one time and getting market wages? Not sure the answer other than if you ask the 100-250 people without any job under scenario 1, they'd tell you the second one is better...

And airfares are far more than 10% less expensive. There are plenty of sources for this. Even other articles that are negative toward deregulation estimate 1/3rd decrease or more.
Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
 
srbmod
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 7:54 am

Quoting Detroitflyer (Reply 9):
does that mean there was no security @ all???

Prior to the rash of domestic hijackings in the late 60s early 70s, which led to metal detectors and airport security as we've come to know it; previously you just had airport cops. And as it was mentioned earlier, you did have stuff happen. Metal detectors didn't become mandatory until barely more than 30 years ago.

Quoting Detroitflyer (Reply 9):
everyone keeps saying it was really expensive.....does any one have any examples of how expensive it was compared to today?? Cuz that would be really interesing....for me anywayz

A $100 fare in 1977 is more expensive than the same $100 is in 2007. $100 used to be a large chunk of ones' pay; these days, it isn't. The average salary during the 1970s was about $7500; today, the average salary is around $46,000.
 
flightopsguy
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:09 am

I recall that prior to dereg approximately 20% of American adults had been on a commercial flight, now it's somwhere near 90%. My first fare on National Airlines from DCA-MCO was $66.50 RT, which was the student 1/2 fare, or half of the regular coach fare. This was in 1968. I still have the ticket. So fares were MUCH higher prior to dereg. Airlines were guaranteed something like a solid 15% on their investment. New routes and fares were subject to approval by the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board). Some route requests dragged on for years, with public hearings to guage if the new carrier on the route was in the public's best interest.

A transcon round trip in 1952 was more expensive than today, without the inflation factor. A typical DC-8 Mainliner in 1962 had about 40 First Class seats, and about 60 "Club" Coach seats. Children were often given souvenirs of the flight which might include a model of the airplane, or a picture postcard set of the destination. Playing cards, newspapers, writing paper, etc. were always available. I have seen union contracts from the early '60's where flight dispatchers were paid the equilvalent of first officer pay...which was much higher (on a comparative basis) than today. You could do a lot with a $50K salary in 1970.
A300-330 BAC111/146/J31/41 B99/1900 CV580 B707-777 DC8/9/10 L188/1011 FH227/28/100 SB340 DO228 EMB2/170 CR2-900 SH330-60
 
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mariner
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:13 am

The first time I flew domestic in the US was about 1976, American Airlines Frst Class JFK-LAX - and it was as good as any airline service in the world.

As a foreigner, a first time visitor, everything in the US was exotic to me - and sometimes fairly baffling - and I was amazed that the service was both classy and casual at the same time, on the ground and in the air.

Two of the seats in one row of the center could swivel around to face the two behind and a round table was set on a central post, so that four people could dine at the table. They seemed to be strangers, I don't think they knew each other, but all four were laughing and joking like old chums.

Everything was open and user friendly - from the casual cheeriness of the staff to the good menu with the big salad bowl tossed in front of us. The seats were as comfortable as any I had experienced.

I guess by modern standards some of it was "primitive" - there were no individuals PTV's, just the big screens with projected movies and there were no sleeper seats in the modern sense.

I have flown with all the "best" airlines in the world - the latest being Emirates First Class across the Tasman - and I have had some very fine experiences.

But I have never forgotten that flight on AA.

 Smile

mariner
aeternum nauta
 
captaink
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:26 am

Quoting Lostturttle (Reply 14):
Deregulation did not stop smoking but do you remember the smoking and non smoking rows........................did it make a difference?

A few years ago, Condor flights from FRA to the Caribbean still had a smoking section...
There is something special about planes....
 
sdf880
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:53 am

My favorite.....TWA had the 707 coach lounge, too cool!

SDF880
 
Viscount724
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 9:12 am

A few of my memories of the early days (i.e. 1970s and earlier), some already mentioned by others:

Much better inflight service especially in Y class, with full meals common even on many 1-hour flights.

Smoking was permitted onboard. Until sometime in the early 1970s or thereabouts, many flights didn't even have separate smoking and non-smoking sections. Many airlines even handed out free cigarettes in small packages.

Fewer people flew so frequency of service on most routes was much less than today. Small cities in particular may only have had 2 or 3 flights a day, but often with larger aircraft like 727s or 737s, compared to today's more frequent service but usually with small commuter aircraft.

Fares were heavily regulated by governments and seldom changed more than once or twice a year, and all airlines operating on the same route usually charged identical fares.

The difference between first and economy class fares was a much smaller percentage than today, often only 20 or 25%.

Average load factors were much lower than today. It was rare to board a flight that was 100% full, and more often than not you would have an empty seat next to you. Today's sophisticated revenue management systems didn't exist with multiple booking codes, and the regulatory system didn't permit last minute fare reductions to fill empty seats anyway.

Code-sharing didn't exist.

Even US domestic routes were heavily regulated until deregulation in 1979. Airlines just couldn't decide to introduce a new route and start operating it almost immediately as they can today. In the US (and procedures were similar in most other countries), they had to formally apply for new routes and the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) would usually take a year or more before they ruled on the application. Formal hearings were often held with other airlines opposing the new competition, local civic authorities supporting it etc. Until deregulation, UA for example couldn't operate from their major ORD hub to points in Florida. However they did have rights from CLE to Florida inherited from their merger with Capital Airlines in the early 1960s. So if you wanted to use UA ORD-MIA you could if you didn't mind connecting in CLE.

In the USA prior to deregulation, airlines that only operated within the same state (e.g. PSA in California, Air California, Southwest in Texas when they first started) weren't regulated by the CAB, only by the state authorities, so they often had more freedom to change fares or offer big discounts than the major carriers on longer routes that crossed state boundaries which were regulated by the federal government.

Advance seat selection at the time of booking wasn't possible. You could sometimes select your seat from a chart when you checked in. They peeled off a numbered sticker from the seat chart behind the check-in counter and stuck it on your boarding pass. If the flight made intermediate stops (multi-stop flights were much more common than today), passengers boarding at the intermediate points often had no possibility to select seats and just had to take what was available when they boarded.

No security checks until sometime in the 1970s. You rarely had to check in more than 30 minutes before departure even at busy airports.

People dressed more formally when they flew; even on flights to Hawaii you didn't see passengers in shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops.

There were very few taxes or all the other fees that are collected in addition to the actual fare now. Many airports (outside North America) had their own departure taxes but they were collected separately when you checked in.

No overhead bins on aircraft, just open racks for light items like coats. Other carry-on items had to fit under the seat. Passengers brought much less stuff on board then which speeded up boarding/deplaning.

Y class seats were more comfortable than today, usually with at least 34 inch pitch (that was the Y class standard on international flights for many years). First class (no sleeper seats or flat beds then) was usually 40 to 42 inches, much less than longhaul business class today.

Air travel overall was much less of a hassle than today, if you could afford it.

[Edited 2007-06-16 02:14:45]

[Edited 2007-06-16 02:17:42]

[Edited 2007-06-16 02:20:04]
 
oznznut
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 9:44 am

I'll add my little rememberances. One thing not mentioned, except in passing, was the fact that all airlines charged the same fare for a given route. Fares were set by the CAB. One call to TWA, Eastern, whoever, and you knew the total fare. I remember spending hours reading timetables. TWA and Pan Am were my favorites. They were in a vertical format listing arrival and departing times at each stop en-route. And hard to believe in these days, I would plan trips by which routing would provide the most meals!!

Dave
 
474218
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:37 am

Quoting Lostturttle (Reply 14):
In 1978, when you bought a ticket, it was fully refundable. You could change flights without penalties. There were no requirements for Saturday stay-overs.

Not only were tickets fully refundable but since all airlines charged the same price, for the same class service, over the same route, you could take your TWA ticket to United or AA or Delta and if they flew the same route they would honor it.
 
SkyyMaster
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:59 am

Some has already been said...

Lots of widebodies on short routes - especially LGA-ORD....hourly services between the two by AA, TW, and UA...

I have an AA timetable form the early 70's with seat diagram - 70+ seats in first class! Piano bar upstairs.

Lots of red-eyes between destinations that didn't seem to make sense. DL and EA both had major banks of flights leaving around midnight or later out of ATL. Is was not uncommon to see a 03:00 flight between BNA-MEM; or CLT-CHS, etc...

Odd routes that you would never see today - UA doing LAX-BHM and HSV, 2x daily nonstop to each...or the UA run up the middle of California - 737's to Bakersfield, Visalia, Modesto, Stockton...NW flew a DC10 from Billings to ORD nonstop...TW n/s Amarillo-LAX...DL 747's to JAX...10 flights a day between Norfolk and Newport News, 8 by National alone....you could fly SO from STL to LGA in 8-9 stops, or DFW-BIL in 12 on FL (same planes)...yet on other routes, no non-stop service at all...ORD was filled not only with AA and UA aircraft, but TWA, Ozark, Northwest Orient, and North Central as well...

Flying was an "event", people actually dressed up to fly...my first flight at age 13 in 1970, I had to wear a suit and tie.

In some ways, I miss those days...
 
baron95
Posts: 1106
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 12:05 pm

Lets see...

1 - No frequent flyer programs.
2 - No lie flat biz class seats, no first class pods/suites.
3 - Smoke infested cabins - seats and trim with burn marks.
4 - Overpriced. No, lets make it way over priced.
5 - Few scheduling choices.
6 - Fewer communities served.
7 - You had to get a paper book, like a bible, and flip through it to find schedules.
8 - It took a couple of days to book a flight and get confirmation of the reservation.
9 - You had to carry a think paper ticket.
10 - If you needed to change your reservations - good luck, you typically had to go in person to an airline location and wait a long, long time for the change.
11 - Plane reliability was much, much worse.
12 - Safety sucked compared to today - lots of accidents due to bad procedures, bad training, lack of understanding of weather, lack of systems such as ground proximity alerting.
13 - No Diet Coke on board. No heathy (light) meals at all.
14 - No express meal service in business/first class.
15 - Very innadequate bins for carry on luggage.
16 - You were at the mercy of the sky caps hijacking your luggage from the curb and hussling you for a tip.
17 - No online reservations.
18 - No online chek in,.
19 - No self service chek in.
20 - No PTV in seat entertainment - everyone had to watch the same crappy movie.
21 - Air driven earphones.
22 - Frequent DDT spraying inside the cabin with passengers in for flights to certain destination.
23 - Requirements for passenger vaccinations to certain destinations.
24 - No fast/light rail to get around the airport.
25 - No jet bridges to deplane in snow/rain.
26 - Frequently drunk flyers.
27 - Fligh attendants being pinched, slapped in the butt and constantly hit upon by business flyers.
28 - G-men deciding how much you should pay to fly and who could fly you where.
29 - Having to wait around while your travel agent hand wrote your ticket in long hand.
30 - No Hertz #1/gold jump on your car and drive at the other hand. No never lost/gps/computerized directions either. No express check-in/out of a hotel.


Sure, if you want to call it the golden-age, then go ahead. I guess then we'd have to call this the platinum or diamond age.

The ONLY things I think of that were better are:
1 - Fit, female, short-skirted flight attendants. The ones that used to get pinched and hit on.
2 - Emptier planes (good for the passengers anyway).
Killer Fleet: E190, 737-900ER, 777-300ER
 
dc863
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 1:09 pm

Travel prior to '78 was much better but in reality it really took a nosedive after '86. In '87/'88 there were massive mergers, many lost jobs and the mega carriers born as a result could care less about the customer.
 
qwerty
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 1:29 pm

No TCAS. That's the only change I really care about, since we are still using the same ATC system from the so-called, "golden age" (Controllers are as good today as they were then. And they were damn good then.)

I think market forces have been good for both the industry and customers. A to B is all it's about. But don't let anyone kid you, it's still pseudo-regulated.
 
AeroWesty
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 1:32 pm

Quoting Radiocheck (Thread starter):
Can anyone relay first hand accounts, or stories from the yesteryear of aviation history?

To add to the responses above:

1) Ticket-by-mail: Many airlines offered a service where you could call to reserve a seat, then they'd snail mail an invoice to you. You could return the invoice with a check as payment, and if your flight was less than a month away, the ticket would arrive complete with boarding passes.

2) Night coach: You'd save 20% off the regular coach fare for designated night coach flights departing generally after 8 or 9pm. You could fly in First on a night coach flight for the same price as day coach.

3) City ticket offices: Plenty of them. At least one office building or hotel in a major city would have a row of airline offices where you could buy/change/refund tickets. Two I used often were the ones in the Kaiser Center in Oakland and at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills (located on the Santa Monica Blvd. side of the hotel). My TWA timetable from 1979 listed 4 city ticket offices in Chicago and 3 in downtown San Francisco.

4) Travel agents: They were paid a commission (I think 8%?), so you could walk in, buy a ticket, and there'd be no extra charge. It wasn't unusual to receive a hand-typed itinerary along with your tickets. I still have one such example from a trip my great aunt and uncle took in the 1950s--it was a number of pages long, typed on parchment paper, then stapled into a document cover, somewhat like a legal brief.

5) Airline clubs: Until litigation opened them up to the general public for a fee, you gained access via invitation from the airline, and sometimes by class of service (the last bit I'm not fully versed on--as in I'm not sure if a First Class ticket assured you an invitation to the lounge for every passenger on every airline for your day of travel).

6) Fare changes were less capricious: Fares were actually printed in timetables, they changed so infrequently. Some examples: PSA SFO-LAX $16.20 one-way in 1970. In 2006 dollars that's $86.05. Fully refundable, changeable, endorsable. TWA SFO-JFK $294 First/$245 Coach one-way in 1979 (fare deregulation came later than route deregulation). In 2006 dollars that's $877.76 First/$731.46 Coach. A 30-day advance purchase "Super Saver" fare was available for $343 round-trip for daytime peak flights (Fri/Sat/Sun), going down to $245 round-trip for night coach off-peak flights (Mon/Tue/Wed/Thurs).

7) Seat selection: Some airlines gave seat assignments by pulling sticky tabs off a layout of the plane hanging on the wall behind the check-in gate. I still remember Delta giving out seat assignments for their night coach from SFO to ATL by pulling little stickers off of a seat map of a 747.

8) Carbon paper ticket stock: Ticket stock was coated with red carbon on the back (that would get on everything!) to print through to all the copies.

9) Flights scheduled with far less padding: PSA scheduled its SFO-LAX flights for 55 minutes gate-to-gate. You can add about 30 minutes to the scheduled flight time for a comparable flight today.

10) Why it was remembered as the "Golden Age": Since airlines couldn't compete on price, they competed on inflight service. It wasn't unusual to be offered grilled steak at lunch, even in Coach, and flights as short as SFO-SEA offered full meal service at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Legroom was far more generous as well--Western Airlines used to advertise "Three feet for your two legs"--meaning 36" pitch in Coach, of course, along with free champagne (not the best brand though, sadly).

If you want to see some route maps/timetables of old:

http://www.airchive.com/SITE%20PAGES/TIMETABLES%20A-H.html
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lostturttle
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:56 pm

Quoting AeroWesty (Reply 28):

If you want to see some route maps/timetables of old:

http://www.airchive.com/SITE%20PAGES....html

Thanks for the link, brought back a lot of memories (RIP Eastern Air Lines)
 
474218
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:02 pm

The two things I miss most about flying before deregulation:

When you called an airline you talked to a real person who spoke the same language as you do.

You could reserve a seat but you didn't have to pay for it until you showed up at the ticket counter just before the flight.
 
blueheronNC
Posts: 90
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:27 pm

What was standby like back in those days? Even though airline tickets were pricier as a general rule, didn't the ability of individuals to wait at the airport for standby tickets largely ameliorate the higher prices? Since planes flew with many empty seats back then, was it pretty easy to wait as a standby and end up paying dirt-cheap fares to get from A to B?
 
EXAAUADL
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:31 pm

Quoting Lostturttle (Reply 14):
In the 27 years before airline deregulation, no airline had gone bankrupt.

Reason that is, is the CAB would force mergers. Capital was going bankrupt in 1961, but the CAB encouraged UA to buy it out. In 1972, NE was all but finished. Flying DC-9s/727s on 100 mi hops was too expensive..one route went YUL-BVT-MHT-BOS, and DL took them over.....so had the CAB not stepped in, there would have been bankruptcies. Others were like Trans-Carribean, Panagra etc


THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOW AND THAN WAS THIS: AIRLINES WERE A PUBLIC UTLITY
 
masseybrown
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:32 pm

Several people have said that air travel was prohibitively expensive for most people. Actually travel by any means was almost a luxury until the last thirty years or so. The less well-off half of the people felt they were fortunate to go to the nearest lake or beach for a week in the summer.
 
EXAAUADL
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:37 pm

Quoting Baron95 (Reply 25):
6 - Fewer communities served.

Except for this I agree with all your points.
 
flightopsguy
Posts: 299
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:45 pm

Quoting MasseyBrown (Reply 33):
Several people have said that air travel was prohibitively expensive for most people. Actually travel by any means was almost a luxury until the last thirty years or so. The less well-off half of the people felt they were fortunate to go to the nearest lake or beach for a week in the summer.

Amen! Most vacations we took in the 50's and 60's were to the beach, about 4 hours away by car (no interstates) and sharing an apartment with relatives. A couple of trips on the train (Pennsylvania RR) to NYC were major events, and only happened because we got family employee railroad passes (the service charge was 1 cent per mile).
A300-330 BAC111/146/J31/41 B99/1900 CV580 B707-777 DC8/9/10 L188/1011 FH227/28/100 SB340 DO228 EMB2/170 CR2-900 SH330-60
 
melpax
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:54 pm

Flying somwhere for the weekend was something only done by the rich. If you went somewhere on holiday, you more than likely got there by car, even if it meant a 2 day drive from Melbourne to the Gold Coast. The airfare for the average family would have proably been a couple of thousand or so.. Much cheaper to drive up in the family car, now it's proably the other way around! It's really only been in the last 10 years or so that air travel has become relatively inexpensive here.
Essendon - Whatever it takes......
 
MeridianBUF
Posts: 27
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 12:00 am

This was early 90's on swiss air. I was about 9 years old.
Buenos Aires - Campinas - Rio de Janeiro - Geneva - Zurich.
I boarded in Campinas (Viracopos airport which they served for some reason instead of Sao Paulo for a while) and went all the way to Zurich

What was better than the recent KLM flight to Europe?

1) Visit to the cockpit was encouraged
2) Got a post card of the plane with signatures of the pilots
3) Some neat little toys including a large foldout poster of the brand new MD-11
4) Each passenger had a little swiss air sign with a very sharp needle to put in the seat, saying 'reserved'
5) Allowed to deplane during stops and stretch (hence the need for the 'reserved' signs)
6) Metal cuttlery
7) Smoking section so my parents were in a good mood through out
8) Very friendly crew
9) It was a privelage to be on board, and it was an enjoyable experience
 
474218
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 12:15 am

Quoting Baron95 (Reply 25):
6 - Fewer communities served.

Before deregulation the airlines were assigned routes by the government, they flew those routes whether they were making money or not. Government contracts like mail service only helped offset a portion of these losses. With deregulation the airlines were free to drop those routes that lost money and concentrate on ones that were more lucrative. Thus less communities were served after deregulation .
 
AeroWesty
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 12:36 am

Quoting BlueheronNC (Reply 31):
Since planes flew with many empty seats back then, was it pretty easy to wait as a standby and end up paying dirt-cheap fares to get from A to B?

There was no price break for flying standby. Fares were set by the CAB (or by each state's PUC for intrastate carriers), and that was it, confirmed or standby. If your plans changed, you just called to make a new reservation, and other airlines would accept your ticket.

I recall the first time I did something similar flying within Europe, and it was maddening in comparison. I had a ticket on KLM from LHR-AMS as part of a transatlantic trip. Before BA would accept the coupon, I had to physically go to a KLM office to have the ticket endorsed to BA by way of a sticker on the ticket.
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QueenofDaSkies
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 12:46 am

I've spoken to some senior F/A's that worked back during this time and from what i hear, I don't think I would want to be a F/A back then. Times have definetly changed for the better in my opinion.
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davescj
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 12:55 am

This was certainly true.

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 21):
Small cities in particular may only have had 2 or 3 flights a day, but often with larger aircraft like 727s or 737s,

I can remember Frontier (the old one, not the new LCC) flew from DEN - LAW (Lawton,OK) on 727s a couple times a day. Fast forward to now....AA only......6 RJ's.....which is actually up from the 17 prop planes that used to fly in when DL had a DFW hub and ASA was the commuter connection into Lawton.
Can I have a mojito on this flight?
 
EXAAUADL
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 2:40 am

One of the oddest Pre-Deregualtion routes was :

ELP-MAF-SPS-LAW-OKC-TUL on a CO 727-200. reads like a bus schedule. I would bet loads never reached more than 35%
 
mirrodie
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 3:46 am

This is really a great thread and I thank the OP for posting it. I'm too young to know what it was like back in the day.

Quoting NateDAL (Reply 3):
But, hey...you did get rubbery chicken included in the cost of your ticket.

This will always be one of lfe's greatest mysteries. Prior to 9-11, many would joke about airline oo airplane food. Now that its gone, funny how its missed.

Quoting Ikramerica (Reply 5):
First class was not much more than Y in price.

I'd like to hear more examples of hte fare differences, say JFK-MIA Y vs F fare. Or the same on JFK-LHR or JFK-SYD even.

Quoting Flightopsguy (Reply 17):
Children were often given souvenirs of the flight which might include a model of the airplane, or a picture postcard set of the destination. Playing cards, newspapers, writing paper, etc. were always available.

Long gone are those days too. I still have a few decks of cards, wings.

Quoting Baron95 (Reply 25):
Lets see...

Baron, I appreciate that insight. Sets an entirely different persepctive.
Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st
 
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N747PA
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 4:11 am

Quoting EXAAUADL (Reply 42):
One of the oddest Pre-Deregualtion routes was :

ELP-MAF-SPS-LAW-OKC-TUL on a CO 727-200. reads like a bus schedule. I would bet loads never reached more than 35%

How about Palm Springs, Ca. in a 707?
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BCAL
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 4:23 am

Quoting 707lvr (Reply 4):
Ah, a chance for us old-timers to sound off about the good old days .. but Crewchief already said it all: so much more civilized.

Probably the best summary but the main difference was that before deregulation air travel was for the privileged few, who could either afford it or had a job that involved air travel, and not Joe Public.

Before deregulation fares were fixed by IATA and airlines had to abide by their terms. If IATA said the fare from JFK to LHR was $4,000, airlines would only sell seats at this price even if the plane left with a handful of passengers. Purchasing a ticket at less than the published fare was illegal but this did not stop bucket shops springing up where you could buy discounted fares, although there was a risk that the airline could refuse you carriage if they found out where you purchased your ticket.
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jetfuel
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 4:30 am

Quoting Baron95 (Reply 25):
12 - Safety sucked compared to today - lots of accidents due to bad procedures, bad training, lack of understanding of weather, lack of systems such as ground proximity alerting.

Thats the #1 thing we all forget
Where's the passion gone out of the airline industry? The smell of jetfuel and the romance of taking a flight....
 
cubastar
Posts: 312
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 4:49 am

And, some of us airline employees had it the best of all...............Non Reving was SO MUCH easier! And usually First Class was available. Great Thread for us old timers. Thanks Radiocheck!
 
AeroWesty
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 5:12 am

Does anyone reliably remember how bump compensation was handled pre-deregulation? I had two bumps right after fares were deregulated, and there was both a cash option and a free travel voucher offered.

The first bump was on a flight from DCA-ORD-SFO when TWA still had a mini-hub in Chicago. I volunteered, but was initially denied due to them only wanting ORD-terminating passengers. The gate agent later came onto the plane to look for me since they faced having 5 involuntaries, and offered a $25 meal coupon and an upgrade to First on the later flight via STL on top of the compensation. It turned out to be a great deal, since they ended up with one involuntary, and when it came down to handing out the compensation, I was surprised it was for more than had been offered, and was told this was because if there was even one involuntary, the volunteers had to receive the same amount. The gate agent had two coupon booklets, one was for free travel, the other a checkbook. He offered me a few hundred in cash or 50% more in free travel. I took the check, and an agent at their check-in desk cashed it. Big grin

The other was a few months later on United when a friend and I decided to fly to Reno at the last minute on a Friday night, and when we got to SFO they issued the ticket, then told us the 737 was overbooked by 78 people (!!!) when the agent couldn't give us seat assignments. We both took the free travel option, since it was enough to cover a round-trip to Vegas departing Saturday morning and returning Sunday afternoon.
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Viscount724
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RE: What Was Travel Like Before Deregulation?

Sun Jun 17, 2007 5:36 am

Quoting EXAAUADL (Reply 34):
Quoting Baron95 (Reply 25):
6 - Fewer communities served.

Except for this I agree with all your points.



Quoting BCAL (Reply 45):
Before deregulation fares were fixed by IATA and airlines had to abide by their terms. If IATA said the fare from JFK to LHR was $4,000, airlines would only sell seats at this price even if the plane left with a handful of passengers.

You are of course referring only to international fares. IATA has never had any involvement with domestic fares. And it wasn't IATA that set the international fares but the airlines that were members of IATA. They negotiated the fares at conferences facilitated by IATA. This was a requirement of many air services agreements between governments which still had to approve the fares after they were negotiated.

Most, but certainly not all, major carriers were members of IATA in the early days. For example, many major Asian carriers including CX, SQ, MH, TG, KE were not even members of IATA until the 1980s or so.

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