The Apple’s of the Skies

Passengers board Trans World Airline Constellation aircraft. c. 1940's. (Library of Congress)

Passengers board Trans World Airline Constellation aircraft. c. 1940’s. (Library of Congress)

My grand-pop had a small plaque on his wall commemorating the day he had flown 100k miles on a commercial plane. In the 1960′s, earning that plaque was an honor. Men and women wore suits and dresses, they drank coffee and wine in gathering lounges—traveling by plane was not only an experience in and of itself, it was meant to kick off any traveling experience in grand style.

Fifty years later is actually better than forty years later. I remember the late 1990′s when it became appropriate for people to wear their scrubs and cotton sweat outfits; they carried pillows, neck rests, bags of fast food, giant Garfield slippers. Even at a young age (maybe in part due to the way I’d grown up) it was absolutely ridiculous to me to step onto an aircraft that can take us anywhere—to the most diverse lands on Earth, riding on perhaps the coolest technology ever invented—to be transported to someone else’s living room. My grandpa would roll over in his grave.

It is no surprise that the flying collective began to spit on the experience of flying as the seats (and the space between) got smaller while cost of everything grew larger. We were sneezing on the airline industry just as they are sneezing on us.

But it is getting better as smaller companies begin to thrive. The best of the newly emerging friendlier skies are working innovative angles to return to us to the glory days of flight. So, on the uptick we go, travel to become sexy again, from airport doorstep to doorstep with these fabulous airlines who know that creating an experience will enhance brand recognition and augment their profit margins—regardless of how many worldwide flights depart each second. What stands out about these two airlines is their quest to refine travel in a way that appears to be authentic. And why shouldn’t they opt this route? It is the customer base who drives the success of any company, and these fabulous airlines are all about the customer:

A flight attendant on Porter Airlines (in a pillbox hat!)

A flight attendant on Porter Airlines (in a pillbox hat!) (Courtesy of Porter Airlines)

Porter is driven by creating a distinct, memorable and enjoyable experience. In May’s issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, CEO Robert Deluce made a short statement that is uncanny coming from a profitable airline: “We are in the customer service industry.”  While on the rise and with a loyal following, the airline is not without challenges — the hub is Toronto, and flights remain solely in North America (at the time of this publication.)

New upper class bar and cabin created by Virgin Atlantic and VW+BS studio. (Courtesy of Virgin)

New first class bar and cabin created by Virgin Atlantic and VW+BS studio. (Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

There is no questioning the cool factor of serial entrepreneur Richard Branson and his quest to take us to the highest skies (have you read about the recent test flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two?) But it is his creation of Virgin Airlines that is earning a most loyal land-based following, one that perhaps will eventually follow him into space’s low-Earth orbit. One happy flier says that she prefers Virgin because she can order food and drink from her seat, there are better options of both, she can watch HBO, and “they are just modern/better.”

So, wings off to the airlines and their founders and personnel who are doing their best to help our hard-earned time away from life and loved-ones become a little more special.


© 2013, World on a Fork. All rights reserved.


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Categories: Adventure + Exploration, Business and Professional, History + Legends, Life. Style., North America, Space, Stories, Where to Travel

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