When I was growing up, my parents taught me that traveling by airplane was a luxury, not a right, and it was a luxury I would not experience until I was 16 years old when I flew to Los Angeles, California with a high school friend (and her mother) on American Airlines for an exciting weekend getaway. I’ll never forget that flight. Then, at 17, I flew to Santa Clara, California, to visit a boyfriend in college on Southwest Airlines. I’ll never forget that flight, either. I couldn’t even believe I was on it. Back then just being on the flight itself was an exciting experience, never mind the drinks and the food and the service, which I don’t even remember. But I’m sure a can of coke and a bag of peanuts were involved.
What I remember most about those two flights was the awe of flying, of looking out the window at the tiny houses below as we climbed up, up, up, until the incredible view became obstructed by something even more magnificent, billowing clouds.
A few years ago I actually met a flight attendant whose very first trip by airplane was to airline headquarters for an interview for the airline he works for now. That flight took place at age of 21. Today, things have changed drastically in the aviation business, and not for the better, if you ask a passenger. Yet the flights are all full, and with more and more children traveling these days. That, alone, makes me wonder, has travel really gotten so bad? Or are our expectations skewed?
“I never got to travel,” said my mother, a flight attendant, who started working for a major US carrier in 1997, three afters I had my wings pinned to my blue lapel. “My first flight was with your father to Hawaii, when I was 21, because your father got stationed there in the navy. I got to go home to Texas once – in three years. And because your father spent most of his time at sea, I spent many holidays alone. That’s just the way it was. We couldn’t afford to travel.”
Now that I’m a flight attendant and have the opportunity to fly for free (in coach), I usually take along my two-year son, who has traveled once a month, at least, since he was born. I always get a kick out of watching him leaning against the window, tapping on the glass, as we fly in and out of the clouds, causing him to exclaim at the top of his lungs, “WOW!” I wonder if he’ll grow up to appreciate the privilege of travel? I do hope that one day he realizes just how lucky he is. How lucky we all are to be able to get from point A to point B for just a few hundred dollars.