What was it like to fly in an airliner before 9/11?


For me flying commercial before and until 2001 was a much better experience for just a few points. Contrary to the US, service on planes hasn’t changed that much on regular airlines in Europe and Asia. You still get (yucky) food and drinks; you still get blankets and pillows; and earphones. Most of which I rarely use anyway.

For me the biggest plus was being able to carry liquids onboard. I am in the wines & spirits business, and I need to be able to carry samples. And checking in samples is risky: they may disappear, they may break. Taking them with me in the cabin was a much safer option. I had a wheelie bag, cabin-sized, that could take up to 8/9 bottles, and my laptop.

People manning the security line would get a big laugh when they saw my bag on the x-ray screen. I guess you’re in the wine business, Mister? You think?!? And speaking of security lines, well, they were lax to say the least. The only thing that really differs from the US on this subject is the ID check. No ID, no boardee.

In Asia and Europe you couldn’t go to the gate if you weren’t flying, which I thought was a blessing. Not that I’m agoraphobic (well, maybe), but having more people than necessary in the departure area isn’t exactly fun. And I thought it was weird you could do that, when I visited the US. Then again, almost everything was weird to me there…


Paper tickets. Wasn’t that cumbersome… I hated those. It’s bad enough to have to worry about my passports and ID cards. Having to keep track of that booklet of dirty, fragile, red carbon copies was a nightmare. Keeping them safe in a 80%+ humidity environment wasn’t ideal either. If I remember correctly, losing, or damaging them was a real bother, as the airlines charged you to re-issue… I went e-tickets as soon as they were available…

Smoking sections. That was a real nightmare. Smoking sections in planes, trains, etc are like defecating sections in swimming pools. Just, worse. Air France and KAL were two of the last airlines to go smoke-free. On 15+ hour flights, that was bad… Now in Chinese airports you can’t take lighters with you on board (they don’t want terrorists to set fire to the planes), so the smokers are kept at bay… Smokers can pick up a lighter at their arrival airport. And they do!


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