Air travels from another era

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

Representative image. (Reuters photo)

Travel by air is just not attractive these days. Pardon the slip, ‘exciting’ would have been apt in this context, considering the sleepless nights that I would invariably have before every trip, compared to the flights I now board due to compulsions of time and work.

The inadvertent mention of ‘sleep’ reminds me of the squeaking noise that some aircraft make these days just before departure— provoking one to sit up and wonder if the emergency brakes had been jammed to save someone caught in the retracting wings. Air travel does not even save journey time. For the amount of time it takes to commute from the Bengaluru airport to Bannerghatta Road, you might just as well travel by bus or train from your home in Chennai! And for those who compulsively indulge in conducting a cost-benefit analysis, you can save on money as well, in terms of fare.

The on-board experience too has changed subtly over the years. There was a time when even a half-hour journey from Chennai to Trichy, would evoke a smile from the air hostess, who would then guide you to your seat, offer you a wide range of welcome drinks to choose from, including coke, orange juice, lemonade and more! These young ladies in uniform would generously allow you to pick a handful of chocolates from the extended tray in addition to cotton buds to plug your ears.

By the time all this was over, the plane would taxi down the runway to take off with repeated requests to fasten your seat belts and to desist from using your mobile. Of course, you still had the mandatory sharing of information-cum-instruction alternately in both English and Hindi, with the air hostesses gesturing to make it explicit which button needs to be pressed to call for assistance, change the direction of airflow or increase it, and explain the handling of overhead masks that would drop automatically in case of an emergency.

They would also tell you the altitude that you were flying at and the time it would take to reach your destination while briefing you about some landmarks that you would be flying over. Once airborne, it is munch-time for many. Unlike in the past when the food came complimentary to the ticket, today one has to shell out cash to eat.

The icing on the cake, in those days, was that if you were a kid who happened to travel on your birthday, some airlines would surprise you with a gift. They would also provide a soft woollen shawl to elderly passengers to keep them warm and that you could take home!

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