Where Have The Friendly Skies Gone?

Friendly Skies

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Remember when flying the friendly skies meant:

  • You received a meal with the price of your ticket instead of a meal for purchase.
  • You checked your luggage for free unless it exceeded 50 pounds instead of the flat rate of $25.
  • You received complimentary headphones to watch the in-flight movie instead of supplying your own.
  • You received a full can of soda with a cup of ice instead of a plastic cup of soda.

Plus there were these added services like:

  • During descent the flight attendant would announce the gates for all the connecting flights of passengers so you didn’t have to look for it when you landed.
  • If there were delays and it was possible that you would miss your connecting flight, the attendant at you arrival gate would call the departure gate of your next flight and request they wait for you.

If you don’t remember, you missed out on a golden age in air travel.

But the friendly skies went the way of safer skies which can be traced back to a single moment in American history. 9/11 is my generation’s equivalent of “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” It changed the landscape of America literally and figuratively.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint Model in the lobby of my hotel. Only sight seeing I got in.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
Model in the lobby of my hotel. Only sight seeing I got in.

Usually the changes in practice don’t bother me but my recent trip to DC on business found me longing for the convenience of quality customer service while traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I value the safety of our nation. It’s just created a deficit in courtesy.

Still, I make it a rule not to be rude to flight attendants or ticket clerks. I employ manners … using my “please” and “thank you” words; letting my smile reach my eyes. They don’t have an easy job.

But the pursuit of safer skies over friendly has made airlines apathetic to the travelers’ plight. Essentially were held hostage to these skies; accepting our rations in our cold cramped spaces with grateful smiles.

My desire for the friendly skies to return started when I checked in for this trip. There was a request for volunteers to give up their seats. I opted not to and thought nothing of it.

However, my coworker who came to the airport later than me wasn’t given an option. She was booked on a later flight. Then was grounded at her layover spot and missed our first event session …

While sitting in the gate area, they announced that our plane was late but only by 10 minutes so “it won’t affect any connecting flights.” Really?

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint Before take off ...

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
Before take off …

We landed and I had less than 15 minutes to get to my next gate, which of course required me to run (and I’m out of shape, so picture me huffing, puffing, and wheezing; lugging a backpack and a purse).

Surprisingly, I got there in enough time … I held out my boarding pass and the attendant at the gate took it and scanned it without meeting my gaze or interrupting her conversation with another attendant. They had NO concern for me or my near miss. It added to my heaviness.

On the return trip … I handed my checked bag to the TSA agent for scanning. He didn’t make eye contact or ask me the standard safety questions … you know:

  • Firearms or other weapons?”
  • Lighters or flammable chemicals?
  • Film or batteries?”

Instead he was scrolling through his Facebook feed on his iPhone. He didn’t even speak to me.

So much for safer skies. In that moment “friendly” and “safe” were on a break. We all lost.

Bring back the friendly skies! Who’s with me? I am hopeful for my next trip …

Seriously, though, there has to be a way to marry the two; so we can fly the safe friendly skies. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your stories good, bad or indifferent about traveling the [insert adjective of choice] skies …

FUN FACT: The “Fly the Friendly Skies” ad campaign and tagline were used by United Airlines from 1965-1996. If you’re interested you can check out some of their old commercials on YouTube. Below are links to a couple that I enjoyed:

Friendly Skies – Nice Flight

Friendly Skies – Friendship Service

Friendly Skies – 1982 Commercial


  1. I caught the tail end (haha) of the golden age of travel.

    Mainly, I have memories of majesty from when I was a child. The friendly flight attendants checking up on me since I usually flew alone. Unwrapping that dependable meal, which I thought was good at the time, but I could be wrong. What did I know with my underdeveloped taste buds?

    Now things are quite different – jarring really. I know I’m not just old and crotchety. I know that flying has lost its luster, and like you and probably almost every other poor soul out there, we want friendlier skies again. For the love of peanuts!

  2. I hope some people who need to read this get to read it–I am with you–friendly and safe is not too much to ask

  3. I miss the way they handle children, as in, it was a big deal to fly and kids were sometimes invited to meet the captain and made to feel special. The staff tried to make it a big deal. Remember the wings? My kids don’t have any, but they fly every year. I keep hoping something “special” will happen, but ti never does. Sigh.

    • I’m with you Sammy … they don’t give wings with pins any more. Possible weapon? And probably an expense they want to avoid. Sometimes they’ll give sticker wings but how is a first time kid flyer supposed to put that in their memento box. Maybe 2013 will be the year. Maybe E can make a fly the friendly skies pen with wings …

  4. I feel you on this one. I normally fly Southwest and have found they do still have friendly skies. The skycaps are pleasant and smile. Actually asking you how you are doing before jumping into their list of security questions. At the gate it is sometimes hit or miss but once on the plane it is enjoyable 85% of the time. They tell jokes, chitchat with you ANDDDDDD you get free snacks and full cans of soda…sometimes two! I think they have made an effort in this airway war and they are winning. Oh did I mention bags are still free? I totally missed this joy when I recently flew another airline b/c my beloved southwest wasn’t available. Let me just say bah humbug!!!!! Hated the entirely cramped experience.

    I say those other airlines could take a lesson (or two or three) from Southwest. They may be cheap but they understand customer service and demand.

    • Sounds like Southwest is a good option. We flew JetBlue for vacation this summer and it was a wonderful experience. But for work we only have two options and neither of them are Southwest or JetBlue. And most of my flight travel is work related. Sigh! But I’ve gotten good at packing my snacks in my backpack and making sure I pick up water once I’m through the security checkpoint. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I think some airlines still give you food on the plane. The last time I traveled was three years ago, and I was actually served white rice with seasoned fish fillets and roast veggies. It was delicious! Personally my only concern is the invasive body search. I’ve heard such awful things about it.

    It’s good that you were able to make your flight, even if you had to run to get to it. D=

    • You’re fortunate Zen … the last real meal I had on a flight it was When my 8 year old was a 2 year old. Most airports do the body X-ray. I hate it but I prefer it to a pat down. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I remember the meals being better too (or is that just my imagination?).

    I’m glad you were able to make your connecting flight!

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