Well, our bags aren’t packed but we’re ready to go. My husband and I will be “leaving on a jet plane” twice this spring on short trips to visit family, and it has me thinking about the changes in air travel since I took my first flight.
I’m pretty sure all of our 12 grandchildren flew on an airplane before they were three years old. Some of them flew at much younger ages and quite frequently. I don’t know about you, but I was 16 when I first traveled by air. I’d volunteered to co-chair the Teenage March of Dimes in my hometown of Knoxville, TN. The other co-chair (a boy I thought was especially dreamy!) and I traveled all the way to Memphis with the group sponsor for the regional kick-off and training. I’m pretty sure that even though Memphis is in the same state, we changed planes in Atlanta to get there. (My mother always said she’d have to go through Atlanta to get to heaven, but since she has already departed I’ll have to wait to ask her if that was the case once I see her there!)
For sure we traveled on Delta Airlines, the airline of the South, and my heart was racing as we walked on to the tarmac to climb up that long, steep stairway to get on the plane. I looked back once to see my mom and dad pressed up against the window of the terminal waving and smiling. Because those were two relatively short hops, I don’t remember being served a meal in flight on one of the divided trays they used in the 60’s (remember linen napkins and real silverware even in coach?), but just having a Coca-Cola and bag of peanuts that I didn’t have to share with my sisters was the height of luxury to me.
I also remember how beautiful and glamorous I thought the stewardesses were. (They weren’t called flight attendants in those days.) They looked like Miss America contestants to me with their fancy hairdos, perfect makeup, jaunty hats, and pressed uniforms. On the printed material in the seat pocket were illustrations of stewardesses serenely sliding down the emergency ramps in their heels—and I was reassured by how easy they made it seem.
But at the risk of sounding like a geezer, flying just isn’t what it used to be. Compare the flying you did as a teenager or young adult with your last experience and you’ll agree. Obviously the necessarily stricter security measures have contributed to the change. Once you are scanned or patted down and walk to the nearest chair in your socks carrying your belt and shoes, your expectations for a glamorous travel experience are pretty much over. Add delayed or canceled flights, no leg room, possibly surly gate agents and exhausted flight attendants, and there’s little magic left to write home about.
And how the dress passengers consider appropriate has changed! My mom always traveled in a suit with heels, and my dad wore a sport coat and tie. Dressing to travel was akin to dressing for church. You wanted to look your best. I’m OK with more comfortable, casual travel clothes, but do people really have to board in their pajama bottoms, muscle shirts, and flip-flops—even on an early morning flight?
Yet parts of flying never disappoint. My husband and I woke up in Rome, Italy, one morning in 2011 and went to bed in our own bed in Colorado Springs, CO, that night. We must never stop thinking of that as anything but incredible! There’s also something about flying that gets the cobwebs out of my mind and invigorates my soul. Gazing out the window of a plane seemingly eye level with a full moon, or looking down on fields of puffy clouds, it’s impossible to miss what an amazing universe we are blessed to inhabit.
Some of my best ideas and insights have come while traveling on a plane, and I don’t think that will ever change. Flying helps us realize just how awesome God’s Creation is. When we can hold fast to the best and not fret about the rest, it’s still an adventure worth taking. And remember, any flight that lands safely is a good flight!