Airline Timetables Disappear, Airline Dorks Die a Little Inside

Southwest has announced that it will finally be ending production of one of the greatest airline dork tools ever invented, the timetable. After the current issue, Southwest timetables will no longer be printed, and that means that there won’t be any printed timetables left anywhere in the US. What a sad day, particularly for a dork like me.

The non-dorks probably can’t understand the impact that airline timetables had on my life. They were instrumental in cementing my love for the industry. In fact, when my parents arranged for professional family photos in 1989, I insisted on having this shot taken with my beloved timetables. (Please ignore the chubby cheeks and buffalo hair.)

I Heart Airline Timetables

I grew up collecting these things while other kids collected baseball cards, and I still have a couple of boxes full of some of the more exciting ones. Eastern TimetableI have a prized TWA timetable from a family member who picked it up in the 1950s. I have a few Eastern timetables from late 1980s which allow you to watch its descent into the grave via a shrinking route map. Yes, you’ll find some Pan Am schedules showing the same trajectory as well.

I have timetables from exotic foreign carriers that I picked up while abroad – Air Botswana and Aeroflot, for example. And yes, there are plenty of little guys that you probably wouldn’t even recognize today. (Sunworld Airlines, anyone? How about the original Jet America?)

Whenever someone in my family had to go to the airport, my parents would let me come along and I would run out at each terminal at LAX. You could find me darting from ticket counter to ticket counter, collecting everything I could grab.

What Jet America Timetabledid I do with these timetables? I would scrutinize them for days, looking at all the cool places I could go. I remember studying them looking for changes in aircraft types, flight times, etc. I even forced my brother to plan imaginary trips with me, so I could look through the timetables with a purpose.

Of course, there’s no reason for an airline to have printed timetables today. You can download a PDF with the schedules from nearly any carrier or you can look them up online. If you have the web on your phone, most airlines will allow you to search schedules there as well. The information is all standardized and easy to find. While that’s helpful, it’s also boring.

I used to relish the opportunity to examine differences between the way different airlines showed their schedules. I cursed Northwest for only showing nonstop and direct flights in their measly little booklet while I became angry with others for showing route maps without the lines displayed.

Now that era is over, and cost cuts combined with environmental consciousness mean that the printing timetables was guaranteed to end. It actually took longer than I expected, but it’s a sad day nonetheless.

55 Responses to Airline Timetables Disappear, Airline Dorks Die a Little Inside

  1. frank says:

    I did the exact same thing, alas I have none of them any more. They were thrown out at some point along my many moves. In my imagination, I was a 12-year old Frank Lorenzo — merging airlines to create the perfect carrier.

    Speaking of memories, I worked for “Frank Lorenzo” in the early 80′s. He boarded my plane once as I was greeting passengers and he said with his hand held out for a handshake, “Do YOU know who I am?”

    I laughed and shook his hand.

    (He’s a scotch drinker)

  2. Fritz says:

    I thought I was the only one that did that. You sound like my long relative. (Actually until the time of 9-11 I was still gathering tons of them).

    Unfortunately in the mid 1990′s we suffered a flood and my many boxes of timetables, and other airline paraphernalia was ruined. I also had posters, letters, baggage tags, playing cards, so much stuff I cannot remember it all.

  3. Basil says:

    I’m going to have to show this thread to my wife and kid
    I used to point at low flying international carriers in Mexico City and tell her where they were coming from and where they would go next
    Of course AF was coming from CDG and IB from MAD, but I also knew that LF came and went via DFW in the 80s
    My son thinks anyone with a box of old timetables has a screw loose
    I guess I got most of mine through the mails as the only airline in our town growing up was Texas International with Convair 600s
    I used timetables to route myself through every airport and on every possible carrier from prep school to home and back (and knew when/where best to get socked-in on the airline’s tab)
    I worked after school in a travel agency and eventually went to Kansas City to learn PARS from TWA thinking I’d work in an agency in college but never used it
    Timetables have now gone with that era, when air travel was an adventure, not a drudgery

  4. aomd88 says:

    Dude, I love that photo. As a “die-hard” timetable collector, I fuly understand you. How I miss the “golden age” when every visit to an airport, even the smaller ones, meant for me coming back home with a bag full of goodies. I remember the first time I went to Madrid airport as a kid … I was in paradise : I had a pic taken at the Olympic airlines desk … I was so happy I could get so many timetables in a day !

  5. Randy weiner says:

    I have the very first timetable effective Aug 1st. 1983. Also 5 others the most recent dating Sep. 15, 1984. I will sell them if anyone is interested. They are in pristine condition.

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