Friday, November 29, 2013

The Glamour of Air Travel

People Express was one of the many low-cost airlines that appeared following the Carter administration's airline deregulation. People Express carried its emphasis on economy to the point that it did not serve meals on flights, only snacks. Some wit gave it the nickname "Peanut Express" for this. I flew on it once, that I recall, home from Christmas. Knowing its reputation, I arrived at the airport with a container of soup purchased at a Vietnamese restaurant a few miles from National Airport. Now I suppose I couldn't get that through security, and I would hesitate to be gulping down Pho or Bun Bo Hue in a crowded airline cabin. In those days, though, security was laxer and I was less self-conscious.

The proliferation of airlines was followed shortly by a consolidation that swept many of the new ones out of existence--People Express merged with Continental Airlines in 1986. It has continued as even old names have disappeared and merged.

On Wednesday, we took a United Airlines flight across the country for Thanksgiving. It was direct and prompt, which the People Express of 1985 was not. It had our checked luggage ($25 per bag) fairly quickly at the carousel: People's Express got my luggage to the destination at least an hour late, maybe ninety minutes. But United offered nothing free but water, coffee and soft drinks; not a bag of peanuts, not a pretzel. One could purchase snacks and alcoholic beverages, at high prices. Somebody in the row in front paid $28 for a snack including sandwich and drink, whether one or two of each I don't know. I thought with regret of the Nam Viet and its soups. Instead we had sandwiches and soup at the Portland airport before we picked up the rental car. Airport prices are usually too high, but I think that even without the end-of-day discount they would have been less those on the flight.

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