Was Air Travel Better in the 80s?


Advancements in air travel have supposedly made everything so much better in the noughties; but was air travel actually better and more enjoyable in the 80s?

Let’s start with the positives when it comes to flying today. For a start booking your ticket is now ridiculously easy. All you need to do is find your preferred flight online, click a few buttons and enter your card details. In the eighties you had to find time to walk down to your local travel agent and discuss flight options, or spend ages on the phone arranging your flights. The internet has revolutionised travel in general by making it easier for customers to search hundreds of options and to find the best deal. This can only be a good thing.

Checking in at the airport in the 80s was also a far more drawn out process than today. Online check in means that these days you can do everything online and then just dump your bag at the desk. In the 80’s you had to be prepared to queue for an hour to get to the desk and then wait while the airline desk agent asked you millions of questions whilst typing frantically on her huge computer keyboard. Checking in baggage in the 80s was no issue though, most airlines had unlimited baggage allowances, or considerably more allowance than today’s budget airlines.


Airport security in the 80s was a whole different ball game. While checking in may have taken forever, you would most likely make up the time by strolling through airport security in a few minutes. Today, you have the barrage of questions about what liquids you have in your bag and you also pass through security almost asked by the time you have removed shoes, belts, jewellery and a whole host of other things that are not allowed. Having said this, airport security has had to step up a notch over the decades due to an increased threat of terrorism so we can’t really complain about this.

So what about once you got on the plane? Well, you got a meal in the price of your ticket for a start. They may have tasted of plastic and been so overcooked they were barely edible, but you still got a wave of excitement when that little plastic tray appeared on your flip-down table. Entertainment on board was pretty limited back in the 80s. If you were lucky you could tune into inflight radio station, or watch reruns of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ but it was hardly cutting edge. However, budget airlines these days rarely offer any entertainment as everyone is wired up to their iPhones, iPads or laptops anyway.

Something that is almost incomprehensible now is that there were smoking sections on all aeroplanes in the 1980s. Luckily (for non-smokers) smoking is no longer permitted onboard, but let’s just pause to think about the stupidity of letting people light up hundreds of miles in the air in a cabin where people have to share oxygen for hours… Ever heard of passive smoking?!


To conclude, while we may look back at the 1980s with nostalgia and dream of the days when air stewards and stewardesses were glamourous creatures who actually looked like they enjoyed their jobs, on the whole airline travel is far easier and more convenient than it ever was in the 1980s. If only they would bring back the free meals and limitless duty free…

By – Jessica Whittle

I work in business development and social media for Panoramic Villas, a holiday home rental site. I am also a keen traveler who enjoys exploring the world and experiencing new things as much as time allows me!

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