Whatever Happened to the Friendly Skies?

My father was fascinated by airplanes. He took me on my first airplane ride when I was 8 or 9. It was, I think, from what is now Bradley International, serving the Hartford-Springfield area, to the Hartford airport, which has long since disappeared. It was an American Airlines DC-3. The flight lasted about 20 minutes. And I threw up.

In the late 1950s, as I was about to graduate as a Radio-TV major from Boston University, the airlines were about to inaugurate the jet age with the Boeing 707. This was news, and the BU radio station, WBUR, sent me out to Logan Airport with a tape recorder to record the whine of the jet engines as the very first commercial jet to depart from Logan with a load of passengers taxied away from the gate.

I got a number of quotes from fascinated on-lookers. Several said they would never dream of getting on an airplane that carried a hundred people! That much humanity crammed into an aluminum tube was incomprehensible, almost a sign of the end times.

 Yesterday brought news of a new plane that Airbus is getting ready to put into service – the A350 XWB. (That stands for Extra Wide Body.) This new plane, which will seat as many as 350 passengers, is supposedly Airbus’ answer to the Boeing 777.  Note, in the photo below, that the XWB permits ten seats across in a cavernous economy class.

Yesterday also brought news that most of the traveling public has basically given up and simply accepts rudeness from other travelers and perfunctory if not downright unfriendly service from many flight attendants. Actually, that came from an opinion piece, not a news story. Rude, inconsiderate passengers and surly flight attendants are definitely not news. 
But it did make me try to recall the last time I ran into a rude, inconsiderate passenger on one of my long-distance train rides. I’m sure there must have been somebodyon one of my may train trips but, so help me, I couldn’t think of one. Isn’t that interesting: 350 passengers together in a trans-continental jet for five or six hours and it’s likely to be an unpleasant experience. But two or three hundred people traveling together for as much as two-and-a-half days, meet over meals in the dining car, become friends in the lounge car, and end up exchanging Christmas cards.