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Travelling back from Nice yesterday on easyJet, I reflected on how much air travel has changed in my lifetime.

When I first travelled by plane in the sixties, a national carrier like British Airways was the symbol of the nation and would not descend so low as to charter or budget travel.

Buccaneers and entrepreneurs like Freddie Laker and Richard Branson were game changers and in the competition with the latter BA resorted to questionable tactics.

BA was very much a Thatcherite success story under Lord King and Sir Colin Marshall with Saatchi and Saatchi coming up with some ground breaking adverts. However they were not reaching out for that market where cost was the preeminent consideration and were out flanked by Ryan Air and easyJet which did.

These companies too exploited the new technology with tickets and boarding passes downloaded onto the mobile. They stripped air travel to its bare essentials: there are no classes though easyJet introduced a card with certain advantages.

They are crafty in their business model with a low fare but many add-ons. For example I was exhorted to check in my cabin bag but the charge for this was 8 euros. Standing for over half an hour to get on and a rugby scrum to get off its not a comfortable experience but it is a cheap one.

For many years Ryan Air did not have a customer complaint section.

Air travel has gone full circle. I believe that there is now a market to appeal to the traveller who wants his creature comforts.

The days of the stewardess as a “dolly trolley” are gone.

It’s all high tech now with a handset.

In the first issue of High Life, the in-flight magazine of BA in the seventies, editor William Davis wrote an article on the fastest possible journey between Heathrow and JFK airports.

He accomplished it under 4 hours as there was no security and Concorde could fly the Atlantic supersonically in less than 4 hours.

This time will never be beaten.

About Nancy Bright-Thompson

A widely-respected travel editor, Nancy is a past president of the Guild of Travel Writers (GTW). She and her husband Phil now run a horse sanctuary in East Sussex. More Posts