The glamorous way to go . . . Air travel, once the glamour girl of the travel game, has lost its glamour, and they’re blaming it all on fuel…

The glamorous way to go . . .

Air travel, once the glamour girl of the travel game, has lost its glamour, and they’re blaming it all on fuel prices. Really?

Remember when customers were kings and queens, or at least princes and princesses?

“Uninterrupted view below is obtained through windows made to open.

 “Armchairs with cushions, fresh drinking water, mirrors, Marconi wireless telephones, speed and height indicators, luggage racks, newspapers, magazines and lavatory are provided.

   “Luncheon boxes, including spirits or minerals, may be ordered of the agents when booking and will be served on board.

  “The fare includes free motor car conveyance for passengers and luggage between the centres of London, Paris and their respective aerodromes.

   “Personal luggage up to 30 pounds is carried free.”

   Handley Page Twin Engine Air Service, London, Paris, return, 1924.

   Remember? A decade later we were still playing catch-up: “Grant McConachie was at the controls of United Air Service’s three-engined, 12-passenger Ford Tri-Motor aircraft, which took off from Edmonton, on floats at 08:15,” the Edmonton Journal reported, on that day in 1935. Fourteen hours and 40 minutes later he landed in Whitehorse at 22:15 and Yukon residents opened their first-ever air mail.”

It even had a biffy, he bragged, explaining, “Traditionally northern passengers had waited until the plane landed, or used empty beer bottles when appropriate.”

Big Ray offered his wrap-up in the coffee senate. “Ironic isn’t it,” he said, “we fly faster, higher, farther, with all the bells and whistles of our time at our beck and call, and yet just when we’re finally equaling the good old days of that rarest of activities — customer service, it all falls apart! Before you know it we’ll have to check in with a carry-on full of money in one hand and a jerry can of avgas in the other, and soon after that flying will be relegated to people like Duong Thi Bach Diep.”

Duong Thi is one of Vietnam’s new breed of property tycoons written up in the April-May issue of The Economist. She told reporters, “I cried when I first saw it. All the security and customs officials at the airport shared the joy with me when it arrived.” She revealed her motives were patriotic and noble, concluding with, “This will show the world that Vietnam is not a country of poverty and war, but a lucrative market.” 

 She was talking about her new car — a $1.5 million Rolls Royce Phantom air-mailed from England. She bought it because she was “tired of being driven around in a BMW.”

Then there’s the Dubai Prince, one of those oil fellows with lots of spare cash.

His car is a plain old Mercedes convertible, but the paint job increased the price to $29,800,000. The paint was encrusted with diamond chips, the whole ruddy car.

With such magnificent examples of capitalism at it’s zenith, we’re fussing about paying for a few airline “frills” once called customer service, and a few pennies a litre more for gasoline as our friendly neighbourhood politicos and bureaucrats soften us up for the coupe-de-grace to global warming, the carbon tax.

   Ah well, a tip of the hat to Gelett Burgess and his poem the Purple Cow, which, for some unknown reason seems to fit here:

            “I never saw a Purple Cow, 

             I never hope to see one;

             But I can tell you, anyhow,

             I’d rather see than be one.”

Here’s the 1924 Handley Page airliner with all that customer service. Want a match? Fly Air North.

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