Fly The Friendly Skies

A former TWA Flight Attendant reflects on the decline of airline service over the past two decades:

"I know the days are gone when [flight] attendants could be written up if we did not put the linen napkins with the T.W.A. logo embossed on them in the lower righthand corner of the first-class diners’ trays. As are the days when there were three dinner options on flights from Boston to Los Angeles — in coach. When, once, stuck on a tarmac in Newark for four hours, a planeload of passengers got McDonald’s hamburgers and fries courtesy of the airline.

"I have experienced the decline of service along with the rest of the flying public. But I believe I have felt it more acutely because I remember the days when to fly was to soar. The airlines, and their employees, took pride in how their passengers were treated. A friend who flew for Pan Am and I have a friendly rivalry over which airline was better. Friendly, yes. But we each believe we worked for the best.

"We tell stories about cooking lamb chops and dressing them in foil pantaloons; we debate the beauty of my Ralph Lauren uniform versus her Oleg Cassini. I like to tell her how we would have the children on board serve the after-dinner mints — delicious pale-green circles with T.W.A. stamped on them, arranged on a silver tray. We remember the service we provided — dare I say cheerfully? Happily? Proudly? And when my friend and I part ways, although we hold on to our allegiances, we know that all of our passengers were served well."

I am an infrequent flyer today, but old enough to remember those glory days of air travel -- particularly international travel -- which I did a lot of for business.

We just returned from a great vacation, marred only by the serial hassles of airlines and airports. The personal memories evoked in this article are warm, but so very distant. And, I'm afraid, never to return.

Bon Voyage!