Here’s Why Flying Today Is Way Worse Than It Was 20 Years Ago

Gone are the days of a more sophisticated way of flying. Nowadays, getting from point A to point B by way of airplane seems no more glamorous than taking the bus. Now, don’t get us wrong, we love the fact that more people are able to fly these days, and greater accessibility is a beautiful thing. However, there’s something to be said about the latest trends in airline customer service, or lack thereof.

From heightened security measures to shrinking seats and everything in between, here’s why flying today totally sucks compared to what it was like 20 years ago.

1. Decades ago, you could meet people at the gate

It used to be much easier to pick someone up from the airport. |

A serious increase in security — most of which resulted from 9/11 — has made it much more difficult to greet passengers the moment they land. Just think about it: Would you ever consider parking the car and meeting your friend or family member inside the terminal, past the woes of baggage claim? Probably not. However, when things were a lot looser, it wasn’t all that hard to gain access to now-restricted areas.

Next: Packing travel size everything can be super annoying.

2. You could bring full size toiletries

Soap dispensers, Cotton swabs and other toiletries
Can you imagine being able to bring a full bottle of shampoo on the plane with you? |

Back in the day, you could get away with bringing everything but the kitchen sink through security. You may even remember your mother packing an entire cosmetics trunk and boarding the plane without an issue. Of course, those days are long gone by now, and packing only the bare essentials is the reality of flying today.

Next: A free meal? Dream on. 

3. They used to serve real food on planes

child eating in the airplane
These days, you’ll probably have to pay extra for a meal. | Vsurkov/iStock/Getty Images

Maybe we’re using the term “real food” loosely here, but still, you get the point. The decision to switch from full meals to a pay-per-product system is certainly one of the most widely-contested changes that airlines made years ago. Now, you’re thrown a shrunken pack of mini pretzels, and that’s it.

Next: Cold? Tough sh*t. 

4. You could get a blanket in coach

man passenger in airplane using mobile smart device with headphones
We hope he brought his own blanket. | Genaro_Melendrez /iStcok/Getty Images

Flying is no longer about luxury, that’s for sure. Passengers used to be able to cozy up, and requests for blankets were met with a smile. Does this still happen today? Absolutely not. It’s hardly par for the course that the common folk flying in coach would be able to snag a blanket from a flight attendant. Go figure.

Next: Entertainment has come a long way, but at a price.

5. You had entertainment choices without having to pay

Casually dressed middle aged man working on laptop in aircraft cabin
You’re probably better off downloading some movies to your own devices before you board. | Kasto80/iStock/Getty Images

Most planes used to have tiny television screens that came down from the ceiling. Although you had no say in which movie would play, it was free, and that’s always appreciated. While some folks may prefer the individual screens that are now on seat backs, it’s just another way for the airlines to suck every last penny out of you.

Next: Flight attendants serve a whole new purpose these days.

6. Flight attendants actually cared

Stewardess talking to passenger
Flight attendants were more accommodating back in the day. | Ruben Ramos/iStock/Getty Images

Having a request met with a smile? Not likely. We hate to generalize, but we feel pretty confident in this sweeping sentiment. Flight attendants make it all too clear that they’re there for safety reasons, not to make your flight more comfortable. Do they still serve soft drinks free of charge? Yes. Would it kill them to be just a tad kinder when they’re doing their job? We doubt it.

Next: A carry-on bag is the only way to go. 

7. Decades ago, airlines didn’t charge baggage fees

Extra luggage will cost you. | iStock/Getty Images

This one’s another biggie. As any traveler knows, bags don’t fly free — unless they’re flying on specific airlines. But back in the day? Boy, was it a different story. You could stuff a huge suitcase to your heart’s desire, and it wouldn’t matter. Hand it over at the ticketing counter, and walk away with the same amount of money as when you arrived.

Next: Ready, set, board!

8. Boarding used to feel more dignified

man putting luggage on the top shelf on airplane
Finding space in the overhead bins is a nightmare these days. | LiudmylaSupynska/iStock/Getty Images

Piggybacking on the previous point, this one has everything to do with the frenzy of passengers scrambling to find a spot for their belongings. And as we all know, it’s first come first serve, which is why the entire boarding process has become a total cluster. It’s a race to get on the plane in the hopes of securing an oh-so-coveted spot in that overhead bin.

Next: Heightened security measures prevent this from happening.

9. Curious kids could visit the cockpit

Jet cockpit
Kids today will never get to experience this. | XavierMarchant

When a little kid steps foot on a plane for the first time, it’s bound to be an exciting experience. Or, at least that’s the way it should be. But today, ensuring the most magical trip ever usually isn’t possible. It used to be common practice to allow kids into the cockpit, but not anymore.

Next: Flying? Better put your Sunday Best on … or your favorite pair of sweats. 

10. The dress code has seriously declined

woman walks through airport
Travelers these days just want to be comfy. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Flying used to be a refined way to travel. People would dress in business suits, dresses, and the like. Now that you have that Mad Men era image in your head, try picturing what flying looks like today. While sweatpants and slippers may be par for the concourse, it’s never a good look.

Next: If it seems like airplane seats are shrinking, it’s because they are. 

11. Each passenger’s personal space has gotten a lot tighter

Interior of airplane with empty seats
Leg room is a thing of the past. |

Remember when fitting comfortably in your allotted space was even a thing? Well, we kissed those days goodbye a long time ago. In fact, the reason that airplane seats continue shrinking is all thanks to those money-hungry airlines, and truly, we hate them for this.

That’s right, these airlines have made some serious modifications — and coin — in order to squeeze more people onto one plane. Basically, they’re stuffing us in there like a bunch of sardines, and it’s not appreciated.

Next: Going through security is a serious pain. 

12. You used to be able to go through security without having to strip down

Man Putting Shoes Into Tray For Airport Security Check
Airport security is a time-consuming ordeal now. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

“Take off your belt, scarf, shoes, and button down shirt,” says the TSA agent. The only thing is, you desperately need to keep that shirt on because you’re only wearing a very thin, revealing tank underneath. But hey, what do they care? Rules are rules, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Next: People used to make pleasant conversation with their fellow passengers, but no anymore. 

13. People were generally friendlier and made honest conversation

Women sitting on an airplane
Most people aren’t looking to chat with their fellow passengers. | iStock/Getty Images

People being kind and treating others with respect on an airplane? Say what? The truth is, we’ve only ourselves, and the airlines, of course, to blame for this one. First of all, the incessant need to elbow your fellow passengers is a direct result of the airlines squeezing as many seats and people into an airplane as possible. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the way that we interact with technology is also contributing to the problem.

Just think about how often people board planes with earbuds in, watch movies the entire time, and generally close themselves off to the rest of the world. Back in the day, that wasn’t an option. Rather, people would make conversation, spark friendships, and maybe even strike up business deals. Of course, that’s no longer the case.

Next: Are you part of a frequent flyer program?

14. It’s all about status

Women standing in a plane
If you have a coach ticket, don’t expect any special treatment. | DigitalVision/iStock/Getty Images

With the rise of frequent flyer programs, airlines really know how to make a person feel worthless. In the eyes of an airline, you’re basically a nobody if you’re not a top tier member. Never mind the fact that you, too, have paid for the flight in question. We hate to break it to you, but the airline couldn’t care less about you or your experience. It’s their most loyal customers they’re worried about.

Next: A new tier of terrible ticket options is likely here to stay. 

15. Economy tickets keep getting worse, and customers are shamed for it

young businessman with luggage in trouble
What’s so wrong about wanting to save some cash? |

The status issue doesn’t end with frequent flyer programs alone. On the opposite end of the elite status spectrum is the group of budget-conscious travelers who prefer to save their pennies wherever they can. One of the best ways to do that is by booking an economy seat. And now, some airlines even have a tier below economy — basic economy. Yikes.

The problem with this is that customers purchase a ticket, and may not know just how awful their experience will be. What’s even worse is that gate agents have zero qualms broadcasting just how unfortunate the basic economy experience will be for these customers. For instance, they have no problem shaming basic economy ticket holders because it was their “choice” to give up simple perks like being able to pick a seat. It’s horrible, really, and we’re so, so tired of it all.

Read more: 15 Secrets Airlines Don’t Want You to Know