Modern commercial air travel is, by and large, a very functional experience that feels akin to catching a very huge long-range bus with hundreds of others. Most people use it purely to get from one place to another and tolerate the various inconveniences like airport security and awkward travel times.
A few short decades ago, however, travelling by air was an experience all to itself and the whole thing was surrounded by romance and excitement. Does that feeling still exist anywhere today?
The Golden Age of Flight
From the Middle Ages right through to the late 19th Century, mankind was entranced by the idea that a human could fly. Then, from the Wright brothers through to the mid-60s, flight was possible but seemed almost magical as a technology for the average person. Airline flights from the 20s onwards were opulent, glamorous experiences with destinations that really seemed like different worlds.
The era has been immortalised through various media like TV and films and has spread out across all entertainment. You can take a look at the slot game Frequent Flyer for a great example of the aesthetic captured in visual form, and the casino world in general has shown a love for flight. The Aviator betting game is a more modern title that draws from the same appeal although it is more representative of modern flight than the golden age, showing the attraction to flight is still there.
A Smaller World
It’s important to remember that a large part of the romance around air travel was the exotic feel of the destinations. Thanks to the internet and faster travel, however, it’s harder and harder to find a location that still feels exotic. Places like Barbados or St. Lucia in the Caribbean that were formerly exclusive retreats now have package holiday deals and tourist attractions dotted everywhere.
Probably the biggest nail in the coffin of the golden age was the rise of budget airlines around the 70s. Hundreds of people crammed into an aircraft with the bare minimum of service doesn’t do much to fuel any romantic ideas.
So Where’s The Romance?
The reality right now is that, if you want something approaching the glamour of yesteryear on a commercial flight, the only real way is to pay the extra to fly first class with a larger airline like British Airways or Emirates. Even then, that feeling of exploration and treading new ground is almost impossible to replicate.
The only way to truly find that nostalgic kind of flight is to join a truly elite club and purchase your own private jet, although given that the starting price is almost £2 million, you would have to already be at a point that most people simply would never reach. As a note, that is just the purchase price: operating costs run at around £800 per hour and that doesn’t include the cost of hiring a pilot or attendants.
The short answer to the question is that, for 99% of people, the romantic era of flight is long gone and unlikely to come back. If it’s any consolation, we may have space travel to look forward to soon!