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Were The Early 80's Really That Much Better On UA Than Now?

Were The Early 80's Really That Much Better On UA Than Now?

Old Nov 26, 19, 9:46 am
  #16  
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I am not sure on international flights. Comparing domestic flights from the late 90s the food in domestic F was a lot better than what domestic F is now. When UA did the "Taste of Chicago" on flights departing Chicago the food was really pretty good. Today the food generally passes as edible and sustenance. Not much more than that.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 9:48 am
  #17  
 
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Speaking of widebody prevalence, I remember back in the early 80s, UA advertised their ORD-CLE service as "All DC-10".
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Old Nov 26, 19, 9:57 am
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My first international first flight was on Pan Am on the upper deck of a 747 to Paris in 1983. The “Sleeperette” seat was a standard F seat of the era with a manual leg rest that would fold out and give you a lie flat surface. It was a more primitive version of what most international first seats looked like 20 years ago. The food was “fine dining” for the era: canapés, salad, steak, potatoes, cake or pie all in courses with lots of starched white linen. Service was very good. No IFE, of course, other than the movie on the main screen, but they had playing cards.

Business class was “Clipper Class”. It was a new concept and closer to premium economy of today. The biggest difference between then and now was that planes weren’t as full or crowded. That made every seat on the plane more comfortable.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 10:13 am
  #19  
 
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Yes.

But flying in the 80s was a completely different experience ... and so were ticket prices.

I'll voice some dissent on the "barcalounger vs. lay-flat" comments. There was enough pitch (and elbow room) to be comfortable. IMNSHO, the lay-flats are over-rated; except on red-eye long-hauls, I don't want to spend my time laying flat and I have no problems sleeping in a reclined lounger anyway.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 10:35 am
  #20  
 
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Originally Posted by seat38a View Post
For those of you who were flying UA in the late 70's early 80's, was the service really that much better than its today?
Of course it was. The differences are so stark, it's hard to compare the two experiences.

I flew UA's first TPACS--SEA/NRT and SEA/HKG--in F soon after the routes were awarded. 747 SP aircraft were used, and first class was in the nose, forward of the cockpit. In addition to the differences in experiences pointed out in previous posts, inflight service was totally different. Excellent wines, and when you ordered a cocktail, two were provided. TPACs offered "five cart service" with real china and silver, and included a salad mixed at your seat (with choice of dressings not served in individual plastic tubes), Moet or Dom, Russian vodka and caviar, choice of entrees (lobster, carved beef), fruit and cheese cart, dessert cart with multiple indulgent choices, and cordials. Service was very attentive and never rushed.

Overall, the experience was not unlike dining in a fine restaurant.

Contrast this with some of the photos/experiences in the Polaris meal thread...
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Nov 26, 19 at 1:27 pm Reason: repaired quote
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Old Nov 26, 19, 10:49 am
  #21  
 
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I recall an early 90's UA flight from IAD-LHR in first. Those seats were just big loungers -- UA hadn't rolled out any flat seats yet on that route.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 11:57 am
  #22  
 
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Originally Posted by Wilbur View Post
UA in the 1980s had a lot of elements that made the travel experience a good one, and many of these elements are gone today. Some of these general expectations of that day included the following.

- Widebodies everywhere: As mentioned above, DC-10 flights were common even on domestic routes. Lots of space, lots of power, commercial flying was not far removed from the military-industrial complex, and nowhere near the consumer commodity it is today.
- Empty seats: Full flights were not ubiquitous as they are today, and as a result, the level of civility was much higher. Lots of leg room, elbow room, strolling around room on board the aircraft.
- Formal process: The liturgy of flying was both more formal and less than today. More formal in that flights left on time and with a certain amount of ceremony, as the planes were not scheduled to their maximums. Flyers were better dressed, attendants were conscious of their service capacity, and the element of travel was an event. The paper ticket package for an international flight was a big wad of paper and carbons, and the flight itself was the activity for the day, not just something to do before getting into the office.
- Informal process: It was less formal in that often you just drove up and walked up to the desk and then the aircraft - no TSA lines and fakery, very limited security activities other than a WTMD, very limited airport dining or shopping. Upgrades were literal sticky pieces of paper affixed to a ticket.
- Entertainment: Unless you liked listening to music or movies through a pneumatic tube, there was not much electronic entertainment. Serving the meal from a cart was part of how to pass the time, along with a deck of cards. I learned several different card games from attendants on long flights with the old Bicycle playing card decks they handed out at the beginning of flights.
This sums up most of it. I would add one other thing. There wasn't this big network of lounges (big airlines had a few, usually in hubs, and there were no alliances, so you couldn't use a "partner lounge" in other airports), and indeed, even in terms of food that you might pay for at the airport, there was a lot less and it wasn't that good. You might be able to get a hot dog or something similar at an airport snack bar.

[EDIT: I will add something else. It was harder to get into F without buying a F ticket at full fare or close to it. Frequent flyer program benefits were a lot less available back then. You didn't have this opportunity to earn hundreds of thousands of points not flying, there weren't large numbers of status upgrades- you could upgrade or "purchase" a premium cabin ticket with miles, but you weren't going to get to do that too often. And there were no TOD cash upgrades. So most people who flew F paid the full price for it.]

I much prefer flying now. You could make an argument that coach service was somewhat better (meals, sometimes better seat pitch, though not always, liberal baggage allowances), but even there, entertainment is far better now, Economy Plus is a new (and very positive) development, and as I said above, the food at the airport that coach passengers are purchasing is far better.
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Last edited by dilanesp; Nov 26, 19 at 12:06 pm
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Old Nov 26, 19, 12:01 pm
  #23  
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Originally Posted by vaguba View Post
I have some hazy memories of flying on a NWA 747 from detroit to beijing as a child in the early 90s and it was all on one tray back then.
I too only have hazy memories as a child in the early 90s on TATLs food was definitely on one tray.
But I do remember airlines would give you a kid pack full of fun stuff to do! Childhood without screens I guess.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 12:02 pm
  #24  
 
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Originally Posted by artvandalay View Post
Originally Posted by seat38a View Post
For those of you who were flying UA in the late 70's early 80's, was the service really that much better than its today?
Of course it was. The differences are so stark, it's hard to compare the two experiences.

I flew UA's first TPACS--SEA/NRT and SEA/HKG--in F soon after the routes were awarded. 747 SP aircraft were used, and first class was in the nose, forward of the cockpit. In addition to the differences in experiences pointed out in previous posts, inflight service was totally different. Excellent wines, and when you ordered a cocktail, two were provided. TPACs offered "five cart service" with real china and silver, and included a salad mixed at your seat (with choice of dressings not served in individual plastic tubes), Moet or Dom, Russian vodka and caviar, choice of entrees (lobster, carved beef), fruit and cheese cart, dessert cart with multiple indulgent choices, and cordials. Service was very attentive and never rushed.

Overall, the experience was not unlike dining in a fine restaurant.

Contrast this with some of the photos/experiences in the Polaris meal thread...
One of the things I would say about this sort of thing is "is the point to have a fine restaurant-like experience"?

In a modern business class product like Polaris, I can eat as much as I possibly would need to (and by the way, despite the comments around here, Polaris food is actually really good), or eat at the lounge before or after a flight; I can lie down and sleep, I can watch movies, I can work. I control my flight experience.

So sure, if your only goal in life is to have flying replicate a 5 star restaurant, fine, you are going to be disappointed. But I don't see why it's even that important that flying replicate a 5 star restaurant, and if you feel otherwise, spring the 8 grand and buy a ticket on one of the international carriers that still offers true F. You'll get that and more.

On the other hand, I think for most travelers, Polaris is a far superior product to old style international F, because it puts the traveler in charge and delivers whatever he or she needs.
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Nov 26, 19 at 1:28 pm
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Old Nov 26, 19, 12:10 pm
  #25  
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FWIW, the food *looks* like it was better back in the day, but jokes about airplane food have been going on for a long time, so they may not have been as good as it looks (that and the ovens were still the same type so its not like they had a full french kitchen in the galleys....

I do know for certain a few things:
1) the seats (in F/J) are vastly better now, they were at best barcoloungers and now you get full beds
2) planes are quieter now (HBR turbofans are much quieter than the jets they replaced)
3) prices are much more accessible for people who want a special experience. (3k and not 10+k, not inflation adjusted)
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Old Nov 26, 19, 12:32 pm
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Originally Posted by dilanesp View Post
... and indeed, even in terms of food that you might pay for at the airport, there was a lot less and it wasn't that good. You might be able to get a hot dog or something similar at an airport snack bar.
I think your point about airports is important. A lot of folks might not remember (or be too young to know) that even up to the late 90s, a lot of airports, even big ones (hello, YYZ), were glorified bus stations with few and awful dining options. The first time I went through AMS in the mid-90s, my first thought was, "why can't we have airports like this in North America?"
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Old Nov 26, 19, 12:44 pm
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Surprised no one has brought up smoking sections yet. I'm sure someone can provide a better estimate of when those went away; I'd guess late-80s.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 12:49 pm
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Originally Posted by bosman View Post
Surprised no one has brought up smoking sections yet. I'm sure someone can provide a better estimate of when those went away; I'd guess late-80s.
A few years later than that.
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Old Nov 26, 19, 1:44 pm
  #29  
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Originally Posted by artvandalay View Post
...
Overall, the experience was not unlike dining in a fine restaurant.

Contrast this with some of the photos/experiences in the Polaris meal thread...
No denying the inflight caviar service levels were better
and for the most part, the ground experience was better (although the lounges and airport services are for the most part better today and more accessible)
but
  • the prices were much higher and the ability to travel was more restricted
  • the availability of non-stop service to more locations is better today -- overall shorter travel times
  • there a wide range of flight options (post de-regulation)
  • flight safety is significantly better today (MAX or not)

So yes, as a luxury experience, yesterday was better; but in many other ways, today is better for many.
Understand some would want the service of yesterday but for the most part that has proven financially not possible today. (not that it has to drop as lower as UA is)
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Old Nov 26, 19, 2:23 pm
  #30  
 
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I remember in the early 80's flying a continental dc10 from lax to hnl. they had a pub that you could leave your seat and stretch your legs up at the bar. this area also had several sofas open to anyone. very nice. seems like the flight attendants wore Hawaiian shirts or dresses back then.

Last edited by bearkatt; Nov 26, 19 at 2:33 pm
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