From the movie “Airplane”: Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your stewardess speaking. We regret any inconvenience the sudden cabin movement might have caused. This is due to periodic air pockets we encountered. There’s no reason to be alarmed and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?
Do you remember the days of the Official Airline Guide (“OAG”)? Paper airline tickets? Tickets that were printed with a carbon copy that allowed you to change flight information? The picture above is from a Pan Am flight in the 1970s. Can you believe it?
When I graduated college, I went to work for the president of an insurance company (“FTC”) in New York. I was his assistant’s assistant and, while I didn’t love the insurance business, I loved working in the executive suite. We had our own little kitchen, bathroom (that was the first time I had ever seen a black toilet!), and conference room.
I think back to the way things were done then. We answered FTC’s phones and took messages and, at the end of every day, we would type up a list of calls to be returned, and would carry over some of those calls for days at a time. We were instructed to always put calls through from his kids, and to bring him a glass of cranberry juice every morning.
FTC traveled often. In the days before Expedia or online airline reservations (yes, kids, this is true!), we would take out the OAG and look for flights. The OAG was an encyclopedia of every flight everywhere and we’d sometimes need a magnifying glass to read the information. We would call the travel agent (who was always female), tell her what flights we wanted, and she would messenger over a handwritten ticket stapled into a nice little folder. If a change had to be made, we would white out the flight info and write in the new info.
Thinking back to those days, how did airlines easily keep track of how many people were on each flight? Nowadays, airlines know everything about you when you board, and we are all aware of the issue of overbooking flights. But in the 70s, did the gate agent take the first 100 or 200 people in line with tickets and they would get on the flight? At the time, it all seemed so easy. We certainly didn’t know what was coming in the future.
Yesterday, I booked a flight for one of my bosses. Orange County to Dallas. I emailed the in-house travel agent, told her what I found online (Alaska Airlines is charging an extra $1500 for the same flights on American; they share the same ticket codes!), and with just a few more communications, she booked the flight, the hotel, confirmed my boss’s TSA pre-check, and sent me his e-ticket. Two hours of work, max.
Is it easier today? Sure. Is it as much fun as pouring over the OAG while picturing yourself traveling to the Congo (which you accidentally opened the page to, when you really wanted Colorado)? No, not really.