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LOBSTER THERMIDOR AT 30,000 FEET

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Yep, the cabin smelt like brine and the passengers dressed like movie stars, but this was the golden age of commercial aviation when anything seemed possible. Like lobster thermidor. And scotch served in crystal glasses.

Lobster is a dangerous article now, the shell too sharp for aviation regulations. Just imagine the headline: “Passenger forces way into cockpit using lobster claw.” It wasn’t that long ago that passengers could casually walk into the cockpit and chat with the pilot.

From the Golden Age to the Golden Egg

That was the golden age, when they gave out postcards on the plane and first class resembled a modern hotel room. Now security officers are ripping people off overbooked flights and even five-star airlines like Emirates are charging passengers to pick their seat.

Grumbles around cruel ancillary costs meant a bill was introduced to Congress in 2015, hoping to legally prohibit airlines from charging to use a plane’s toilet. What's next? Charging to board the plane first? Wait, they already do that.

That fable about killing the goose that laid the golden eggs springs to mind. It’s not all grumbling though. Qantas just flew Perth to London direct, Singapore Airlines are rolling out the 787-10 Dreamliner, and Virgin Galactic just completed their first successful spaceship test flight since 2014.

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Where Did the Space Go?

Commercial aviation is promising bigger and better, but there’s less room to be had, on the plane and in the airport. Back in the golden age there was enough space to wear a three-piece suit without getting chafed. At London Heathrow it seems impossible to get a seat without ordering half a dozen oysters, or a milky $12 cappuccino served in a soup bowl.

The only place to sit in Bangkok International Airport is one of those black vibrating massage chairs. Why are those things always so conspicuously located? To create perverse entertainment for fellow travelers? To showcase a grand spectacle of facial expressions? To show what it’s like to get stabbed in the neck by a broken spring? Those chairs are dangerous articles, not lobster thermidor.

Lobster to Luckless Hours on the Move

Okay, flying is much more common now than it was in the 1950s. A little magic was always going to be lost when taking a flight became a necessity, not a treat. Commercial aviation has been reduced to its basic functionality, boiled down to the simple means of getting from A to B, a victory for technology over service.

Except it’s never really A to B because hub spoke routing isn’t the fastest way to fly. Bad service is one thing, getting forced to overnight in Dulles is on a different level.

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Commercial Aviation to Private Air Charter

Times have changed and really, too much fish on a plane is only going to create a stench. And what about passengers with shellfish allergies?

There are different considerations today, like how to minimize travel time and still get treated like a human.

The magic of flying continues to be the feeling that anything is possible. Back in the 1950s that was dressing like a Bond villain and eating elaborate airplane food.

That possibility is more practical in 21st-century aviation. It’s the opportunity to fly anywhere, anytime, an opportunity afforded by private air charter and Airvel.

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Photo credits: SAS Museum

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About Author

Stephen Bailey
Stephen Bailey

An award-winning travel writer who swapped the newspaper editorial desk for the life of a travel hacker. Writes about how to find the best deals, inspirational places to go, and irreverent articles that no purpose other than pleasure.

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