In my 32 years in the travel industry I have worked at one regional airline, two major airlines, and several travel management companies. As travel becomes increasingly technical, it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane.
One of my favorite stories from my regional airline days was hearing the “old timers” talk about the way the reservation center used to operate before computers. The agents would sit in a room with the flights listed on a blackboard at the front. Each flight showed the date, time, origination, and destination, and the number of seats still available. Reservations were written on index cards and passed up to the front of the room in baskets using a conveyor system, so that the passenger’s name could be added to a manifest for that flight and the number of seats showing available on the blackboard could be reduced.
Seat assignments are another area that has evolved incredibly. Back in the old days—think 1980’s—you wouldn’t be assigned a seat until you arrived at the boarding gate. The gate agent would ask you for your seat preference, and then pull a sticker noting your seat number off a seating chart shaped like the airplane. The sticker would be placed on your boarding card so you’d know where to sit once onboard the aircraft. Compare that process to our ability now to select a seat when making advance reservations, and to check in on-line 24 hours in advance using any computer or smart phone!
Frequent flyer programs didn’t even exist in the early 1980’s. If you wanted an upgrade, you paid for it. If you wanted a trip to Hawaii, you bought it. Even if you flew around the world many times on the same airline, there were no free tickets as rewards for all the miles you racked up.
How about flight notifications we get today on our mobile devices? Recently I was taking a flight out of Baltimore Washington International Airport. The airline needed to do a gate change, and while walking inside the terminal toward my original gate assignment, I received a message on my phone with my new boarding gate information. I pivoted around and headed for the new gate without missing a beat. In the old days the airport loud speaker system would have been the airline’s only option for announcing the gate change. My, how things have changed!
So on your next trip when you check in on-line, save your electronic boarding card to your phone, glide through security like a pro, and enjoy a free cocktail in first class using a frequent flyer upgrade, smile! Remember, it wasn’t always like this. Isn’t life grand!
Do you have a favorite story about how travel has changed? If so, we’d love to hear from you.