No standing in long security check lines, not having to take off your shoes and the jacket and empty your pockets of all your personal objects, subjecting yourself to the metal detector and the humiliation of the x-ray machine disrobing you and then trying to be nice to the often smug and arrogant TSA agents whom Shirley McLain tags thugs standing around in her book I’m Over All That. Getting their hands on to the most intimate of your person and the belongings.

In just a few short minutes you have strode over to the departure gate. The flight crew was happy to see you. The captain and his second and third officers gave you a warm welcome. Some times even coming out of their ivory tower of the cockpit to greet you. Seats were roomier and you could actually lean back without dislocating the knee joints of the fellow passenger sitting right behind you. They served real hot meals of your choice – in most cases mini filet-mignon and or a  chicken breast with two sides and even a dessert. And other than on the US carriers on their domestic routes, alcoholic beverages were complimentary and they handed out little bags of peanuts to savor your cocktails with. Soon as the plane pushed off the gate, you entered the world of the pampered.

There were no complicated and only an accountant could figure out the pros and cons of various fares and the ones  you cliqued “select”, them suddenly disappearing in thin air. There was full fare and excursion fares. Full fare allowed you absolute flexibility and the tickets could have been open ended both ways and valid for a whole year. Excursions normally were cheaper and would have limitation of minimum and maximum stays. Within those parameters, you had all the flexibility you would ever need.

Reminds me of the trip I took to India with Carolyn and then nine months old Anjuli. On our way back we are booked on Swissair to Zürich and then onto the connecting flight to Munich. At the time the new Sahar, now known as Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport had just opened. In confusion, my brother-in-law Rikhav (Vora)  takes us to the old Santa Cruz Airport from where we rush to the Sahar – fortunately located in the same part of the town. By the time we rush to the Swissair counter, it’s too late. Their next flight would be twenty four hours later.

It is past one in the morning and with the nine month old soundly asleep in her back pack perched atop my shoulders, I am not willing to wait. I quickly scan the departure board. There is an Air France flight scheduled to leave in about half an hour. Maybe they have some seats available. You can re-route us via Paris. The agent is not happy about relinquishing us to another airline, but reluctantly picks up the phone and calls Air France counter down the hall. Sure enough, they have an entire bulkhead raw open, ideal for the couple with an infant.

The company policy allowed us to fly overseas in the First. But the difference in the fares between the front and the back of the plane was exorbitant and with the economy on the downward slide, the once flushed corporations had began to look at those costs. Based on the focus groups and other surveys, the airlines began to work on introducing something in between. When some companies switched  from the First to the tourist class and still paid pretty penny for the flexible  full fare tickets and then to be served and seated next to someone with an excursion ticket who paid half as much or even less, the discontent from the full fare passengers  was widely heard.

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