4 Ways Flying Was Different In The 80s

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From missed flights to lost luggage, sometimes it seems like flying is more frustrating than it’s worth these days.

Sunshine Skies

Here are a few major differences between flying now and how it used to be, back in the Reagan Administration.

1. You Got a Meal

Everyone has heard the jokes about airline food, but how many travelers have actually experienced these meals lately? Receiving an in-flight meal used to be standard on all airlines, but not anymore. Now you’re lucky if you even get a small package of pretzels.


First-class meals in the 50s and 60s were quite extravagant, but by the 80s, airline food quality was in decline. Though the food wasn’t as appetizing, meals were still regularly served. However, by 2001, most airlines dropped their meal services to save money. Passengers today aren’t fed unless a flight is over a certain number of miles.

2. Physical Tickets

Can you imagine planning a vacation and purchasing flights without your smartphone? How would someone even do that? Back in the day, the only way you could book a flight was by interacting with another human being.

There were only a few ways to book a flight in the final days of the Cold War, and they all seem incredibly inconvenient in this day and age. You could call a specific airline, call your travel agent, or actually show up to the airport and purchase a ticket—gasp—in person.


If you wanted to compare prices, that meant you had to make multiple phone calls. Then, once you booked everything, you had to wait for your ticket in the mail. You couldn’t print your ticket at home or have it pop up in your inbox seconds after the purchase. This also meant that you couldn’t lose the physical ticket or you’d really be out of luck.

3. Friends Could Meet You At The Gate

The days in which loved ones could surprise you as soon as you step off a plane are long gone. All those rom-com plots, where one person is rushing through an airport to catch the love-of-their-life before their plane takes off, can never happen again. Now airport security is very strict. Those TSA agents don’t care about your love life.

Family and friends could accompany a traveler to their gate up until the early 2000s. Now, if you need someone to be with you for your departure, or meet you as soon as you land, you have to do some paperwork.


Gate passes are available at ticket counters but don’t wait to request one. Airlines won’t approve the request if you’re asking for it less than an hour before your flight. Once approved, this document will allow a person to pass through all security checkpoints. That way they can either hug you goodbye or be there waiting for you after you land.

4. Baggage Wasn’t an Issue

Back in the day, baggage fees weren’t a thing. People could pack their belongings in almost any kind of bag, show up to the airport, and hop on their flight. Nowadays, baggage requirements are much more complicated.


In 2008, American Airlines changed the game by announcing they would start charging travelers to check their bags. Since then, many other airlines have followed suit, making it difficult to avoid extra fees when booking a flight. If you travel light enough, most airlines allow you to bring a carry-on bag at no cost, but you have to be sure that bag will fit in the overhead compartment. We all know what thats like, and we can assure you it was easier in the 1980s.

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