My dad subscribes to more email newsletters than I do, and one that he forwarded me from Mental Floss had the headline: “11 Things We No Longer See on Airplanes.” I was intrigued, and obviously I disagree or I wouldn’t be writing this post. (Last cranky post of the week, I promise!) So here are nine things that, while maybe not as spectacular as they were back then, are still around if you know where to look.
I would argue that the quality of some products and services has actually improved such that we are better off than past generations. As for numbers 10 and 11, well, they might be worthwhile sacrifices.
1. Sleeping Berths
No, we don’t have these in economy class anymore, but sleeping berths still exist in the form of lie-flat seats. Most international first and business class products (and some domestic first class) have lie-flat configurations, and certain carriers like Emirates and Singapore have enclosed suites. Even some long-haul economy class products have lie-flat seats if you consider innovations like Air New Zealand’s Skycouch.
2. Pong (and Bars)
I’m not sure if any in-flight entertainment systems have Pong, but the array of video games and other entertainment options is incredibly large compared to what used to be. The intended topic of this heading was supposed to be in-flight bars, however, and those do exist on airlines like Emirates that have made significant investments in their premium cabins.
3. Champagne in Coach
No, you won’t find sparkling wine in domestic economy class, but it is still present on long-haul flights. United Airlines and US Airways both sell it on international fights, and United even gives it away for free on flights to and within Asia. If you’re that desperate for a little bubbly on a domestic flight, mix white wine and club soda. It will probably taste just as good (bad).
4. Table-side Meat Carving
No, I don’t think any airline does this, though I may be wrong. But many do provide cart service for desserts and appetizers. Etihad is known for having an on-board chef who will prepare your entree to your liking — still reheated, unfortunately. Frankly, I’d rather have a customized entree than a slice of a larger roast.
A big ol’ Wurlitzer? No. They aren’t around anymore. But everyone and his brother has an iPad these days — even the pilots. Unfortunately I can’t play chopsticks any better on a digital keyboard than a real one.
6. Flight Attendants in Hot Pants
This one is just unfair. Hot pants were a style of their time, and I don’t know anyone who wears them now, flight attendant or not. But sex is still a part of air travel outside the U.S. Many Asian carriers limit the age of their flight attendants, and Nok Air even hired Maxim models for a promotional photo shoot.
7. Fresh Cut Flower Arrangements
No, there aren’t whole vases of flowers, but first class passengers on some airlines can still expect something. Part of it the change is a preference for minimalist design. Lufthansa is know for providing a rose in its own tiny bud vase. Emirates provides a fresh flower with its turndown service. Do you really want a large arrangement at every seat? I think it would just take up space.
8. In-flight Fashion Shows
Really? You miss that? Braniff’s commercial was painful to watch, and I’m kind of glad I wasn’t around to see that in action. I still see flight attendants change their wardrobe slightly after departure and during meal service, but it’s nothing like that. If you can settle for an in-terminal fashion show, just check out this one from United Airlines. It’s like they have a whole department thinking of things for me to poke fun at.
9. Peruvian Art
Again, I think this one is highly specific, but if we don’t have Braniff International stocking its planes with authentic art pieces, we at least have a move toward creating more interesting interior spaces with electronics. Boeing has been using LED lighting to create different ambiences in the cabin (e.g., the Sky Interior). If that isn’t enough, Air France uses computer displays to create an art gallery for premium cabin passengers. With oil prices what they are, I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing sculptures and paintings return to the air.
Things You Won’t Find
Numbers 10 and 11 were a window at the end of every row (gone because adding more rows of seats means not every row gets a window) and seat assignments with the letter “I”. I don’t think anyone is pining for the days of seat 22I, but I understand the frustration of decreasing legroom. On the plus side, airlines have been able to keep fares relatively low by packing in more passengers. I can pay the same for a cross-country flight today that I did (or my parents did) 20 years ago. With inflation, that’s actually a net decrease.