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The Future of Airline Geekiness

Cranky is on vacation, but I’ve lined up some excellent guest bloggers for you while I’m gone. Today I have Things in the Sky author Dan Webb.

The vast majority of the airline geeks I know found their passion as children, and I’m no exception. Heck, I made a (crude-looking) airport out of Legos, and drew the “Dan Airways” route map in copies of inflight magazines my dad would bring home. I often like to think back to early aviation memories of mine. If you’ve peeked at my blog, then you know that I am a mere freshman in college, so my memories don’t go that far back. But things have changed a lot since then, and it makes me wonder about the future of airline geekiness.

In 1996, my home airport, T.F. Green (PVD) in Rhode Island, received a major makeover, and my parents decided to drive over and explore the newly-renovated terminal. On a few more occasions, my father would take me to the airport where we’d grab some food and just explore for awhile. As a look back, I now see the parenting brilliance in this move, as it provides very cheap entertainment for an aviation-obsessed child.

Another moment I vividly remember was part of a family vacation to San Francisco in 1998. The 757 was flying PVD-PHL-SFO, and my parents and I decided to stay on the plane instead of going into the terminal. We were flying on a first class award ticket, and the crew invited me up to the cockpit to take a look around. The captain was incredibly nice and spent a good amount of time showing me all the different gauges and controls.

Why do I bring up these memories? These events are what fueled my love of aviation as a child, and I wonder if I would be blogging about the airline industry today if these things never happened. Both of these events were also pre-9/11, which, as we all know, brought about a great deal of change.

If one wants to explore an airport terminal, a boarding pass is required. Even then, I’ve been told by airline employees that I can’t take pictures because it’s a “security risk.” Friends of mine have been stopped by police while they were spotting and taking pictures of the arrivals and departures. Meanwhile, crews are now secure behind reinforced cockpit doors. Yes, cockpit visits do still happen, but they seem to be rarer these days.

Now when I go through a security checkpoint and remove my shoes and make sure that my liquids are in a one-quart bag I wonder about these childhood memories. If all of these new security measures were in place during my childhood, would I have fallen in love with aviation? While I think I would have, I’m not that sure. Yes, security is (obviously) important, but what have we given up to feel a bit safer? Has the excitement that airline travel brings been lost forever? I hope not, for the sake of future airline geeks like me.

Dan Webb is a freshman business student at Bryant University, and started writing about the industry in June 2008. He pens the blog “Things in the Sky” on BoardingArea.com.

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