ren0312
Topic Author
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How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Thu Jan 10, 2019 6:29 am

How is long haul travel now different from the late 90s? Particularly for the US carriers in economy? It seems that aside from cheaper fares and better entertainment, everything has basically gotten worse in terms of personal amenities given and things like personal space, more crowded planes, and less generous luggage allowances? But then maybe paying lower fares for a UAL flight from the US to HK compared to 1997 more than makes up for this?
 
upperdeckfan
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:24 am

In the late 90's a barrel of oil was much cheaper than today and even so fares are lower today than then. Don't forget aviation is still a business so airlines have to make profit to keep flying.

You have already summarized most of the changes for good and bad, I'd add more frequencies and more non-stop routes on the positive side and the introduction of paid services on the negative one (BOB, checked luggage, etc).
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directorguy
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:26 pm

Long haul travel was rarer and more exotic as recent as the 1990s than it is today. More and more people are flying longhaul than they did 25 years ago. Frequencies were much lower and you weren't as spoiled for choice unless you were flying LHR-JFK. I wonder how many city pairs had 3 flights daily between them (even on multiple airlines) compared to now.
Many countries had far less longhaul activity back then compared to now. How many airlines flew into PEK/SHA compared to now? India and China funnelled everything through two or three international gateways with poor/awkward domestic connectivity.
On board, IFE was much less common and all you would get was a meal and possibly a movie shown on a projector. No wifi, no cool gimmicks. Business and First were simply enhancements of economy-better seats, food, service etc. Only the very forward airlines at the time were pushing the envelope and offering something new (i.e. beds instead of seats etc).
Airports were much worse. I remmeber the 90s as that transitional decade when most airport terminals in use had been built in the 60s/70s and were unable to cope with large passenger volumes, or offer any amenities. One by one all those dindgy low-ceiling buildings gave way to the futuristic bright airy structures that became common after 2000. The one exception was AMS, their airport experience was a revalation compared to anything else back then.
 
spacecadet
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Thu Jan 10, 2019 6:16 pm

By long haul I assume you mean international? The last question about US to HK makes me think that's what you mean.

In economy, I don't know that a huge amount has changed since the 90's, although the seats have definitely gotten thinner and there are more of them. Seatback IFE is (for now) pretty standard these days, whereas in the 90's it would mostly have been either popout screens every couple of rows, or even the old big screen at the front of a cabin showing one or two movies for the whole flight.

International is the one place where US airlines still routinely serve hot food in economy, so not much has changed there. Arguably, the food is better than it used to be. It did used to be almost inedible, although we were still pissed when they took it away domestically... (it's the principle of the thing.)

One thing that has changed a lot is that there are more cabin choices now, and the higher classes have gotten a lot better. I only flew business class once on a US carrier internationally, in 2000, but at that time business wasn't hugely different from economy, it just had a wider seat. Now, of course, you get lie-flat beds, privacy, lots of power for your devices, a bigger IFE screen, great food, etc.

For me the biggest change is the addition of Premium Economy. I flew Delta's Premium Select from Japan a little while ago and that wasn't something that would have been available at all in the 90's. I was honestly a little disappointed in the legroom, but overall it was definitely a better experience than economy would have been, either now or in the 90's, and it didn't cost much more. So in that sense, I think US carriers have actually improved, because there is that extra choice for those of us who can't afford business class but are willing to pay at least some premium to not be crammed into 30" of seat pitch for 15 hours.
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Kent350787
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:01 pm

Outside of the US, fares are cheaper and onboard amenities better, even on full service carriers. I agree that premium classes have gone up while economy on full service may have tweaked legroom and width down a little while improving IFE etc.
 
FlyHappy
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Sun Jan 13, 2019 11:58 pm

its true that Y has become less comfortable while premium classes (including Y+) has gotten better, but what's important is that load factors are much higher today, so open seats are much rarer, making Y cabins feel more crowded and claustrophobic.

Fares are lower, but that's most obvious from big gateway cities and less so from interior US cities, which continue to be held to significant US3 monopoly fares (assuming that your time is of reasonable value).
 
747Whale
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:21 am

Sitting in back, LAX-SYD, comparing a trip in 1989 to 2017, not really any change.

Sitting up front (cockpit), quite a bit of change, from the technology to the reliability, to the size of the database, accuracy of navigation, information and forecasting, etc. A lot has changed.

For US carriers, except for the cargo carriers, a great deal has changed for long range operations so far as flight, duty, and rest regulations. The cargo carriers were left out of the safety improvements and still operate under the old rules.

Glass cockpits are now nearly universal. Communications are better. Traffic alerting systems and air traffic control are better. Navigation is significantly better.

I still fill out a paper plotting chart, though, about the same as always.
 
IADFCO
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:17 pm

On the economy class side of transatlantic flight, the only one I am familiar with, in my opinion it has become much worse. Airplanes are much more crowded, seats are narrower and with less leg room, quantity and quality of meals has become worse (the infamous chickenorpasta). IFE for me is a wash: more offerings but on a microscopic screen and with lousy audio quality. Only improvements I can think of are one major (no smoking – I am a nonsmoker) and one minor (real time maps). Off the plane, much more expensive to cancel or change a reservation, fees for all sorts of things that used to come with the price of the ticket, much longer and intrusive security checks (not the airlines fault, except that because of the luggage fees people bring much more stuff on board, slowing down security and airplane boarding). On the cost side, one of these days I am going to try to reconstruct the cost of my tickets over 30+ years of transatlantic flights: I bet I am going to find that the cost has remained roughly constant, taking inflation into account, maybe grown a little, but the value (i.e., what you get for your ticket) has gone down significantly.
 
IAHWorldflyer
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:47 pm

In the '90's in long haul economy class you would have most likely been flying around on a 747, 777, or A340. With some DC-10's still operating a few routes. Your seat would have been 18" wide and the pitch would have been 32-33". It would have been more heavily padded, but no PTV. I recall econ passengers getting small "amenity" kits with a blanket, earphones, and eye shades. Because of the planes at the time, the longest flights were about 14 hours, but most were less than 12. Flying long haul was also much more of an "event" because it was rarer.
 
flymia
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:25 pm

The biggest positive I can think of were larger seats in economy and more leg room. Service was a bit better too. Though I don't remember long-haul much in the 1990s I do remember it in the early 2000s and flying Iberia in a 747-300 on MIA-MAD-MIA and having good service, decent seats, but the projector IFE.

Now days, the positives over the past are, much more options. Its crazy the amount of long haul flights there are these days from airports like Miami where it used to be 5 or 8 major European airports to around 20 now, or flying non-stop from Austin or FLL to DXB etc..

IFE is 1000% better. The IFE systems in more modern airliners flying these days is impressive. Premium cabins are much better these days too. Lie flat seats, full service bars, showers, almost small room type suites.
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zakuivcustom
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:59 pm

Speaking from totally a TPAC perspective.

For luggage allowance - it depends. TATL from US got a reduced allowance (I believe it was 2x 23kg in Y, correct me if I'm wrong), but TPAC right now is the same as what it was for years - 2x 23kg luggages. UA (and I believe AA and DL also) did reduced that to 1x 23kg for awhile (while East Asia carriers like CX/JL/KE/BR/etc. had always been 2x 23kg) except to Japan, but that's no longer the case.

As for seats - I avoided UA (and NW) 744s for years going TPAC mainly b/c there's nothing but that giant projector. And even individual screen used to be looped tape instead of AVOD. 3-3-3 777 is also more comfortable than 3-4-3 747s anyway (although 3-4-3 777, well, not so much). Legroom is reduced slightly, but not as bad as domestic flights.

Then there's the food - portion size was larger but the meal tasted much worse.

Otherwise - tons more flight frequencies, tons more city pairs, much better premium class, and lastly, ticket prices that haven't changed since late 90s (IIRC it was around USD1000 per person for my family to fly from US to HK and back. Nowaday it's still USD1000, max, per person, and most of the time not even that).
 
IADCA
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:24 pm

IAHWorldflyer wrote:
In the '90's in long haul economy class you would have most likely been flying around on a 747, 777, or A340. With some DC-10's still operating a few routes. Your seat would have been 18" wide and the pitch would have been 32-33". It would have been more heavily padded, but no PTV. I recall econ passengers getting small "amenity" kits with a blanket, earphones, and eye shades. Because of the planes at the time, the longest flights were about 14 hours, but most were less than 12. Flying long haul was also much more of an "event" because it was rarer.


Late '90s would have seen a lot 767s as well, especially TATL.

One other major change has been a lot more carry on bags.
 
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lugie
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Tue Jan 22, 2019 11:23 pm

I would say for the average traveler (outside of the A.net/general avgeek community), long-haul travel these days is worlds ahead of what they were offered in the 1990s.
Mind you, I'll be looking at economy only, but that is pretty much what 90+% of the traveling public will get to see for their entire lifetime.

First - prices:
    These days, if you're lucky enough (but also thanks to the help of online flight searches), you'll be able to score a roundtrip TATL airfare for maybe $500 or even considerably less. According to the BLS' inflation calculator, that's just under $280 in 1991 (!)
    There is no way on earth any airline in 1991 let any revenue pax fly TATL for under 300 bucks. Now you might say that with airlines unbundling prices, that $500 ticket doesn't get you far, since it includes no luggage, but even after factoring in that additional cost which you might need (but might as well not need), you're probably still a couple hundred $$$ under a typical 90s airfare.

Second - inflight offerings:
    While it is definitely true that no airline in the 90s flew 3-4-3 Triple 7s or anything similar, I'd throw out a provocative hypothesis: Most passengers will neither notice nor care. Airplane seats in coach have never been considered furniture of particularly great comfort - so maybe with the exception of passengers with particularly big bones, the vast majority won't really sense a difference between an 18 inch wide and a 17.5 inch wide seat. Especially if they're not frequent business travelers so they don't have back to back flights that allow them to make more educated guesses on direct comparisons.
    On the flip side however, the IFE today is at a phenomenal standard with most airlines operating long haul flights. And from my experience of talking about flights with people who aren't particularly into aviation, that's usually what they base their judgment on. "Dude you should fly airline X if you vacation there, they have the biggest TVs I've ever seen". On top of that, more and more carriers are expanding their Wifi offerings, allowing passengers to keep themselves entertained in even more ways as flights keep getting longer.
    And finally food - I really can't make a personal judgment here but from what I've heard is that - while no one is really a fan of airplane food - the overall quality, especially in terms of choice and something resembling a bigger variety, in Y seems to have risen.
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spacecadet
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Wed Jan 23, 2019 5:45 am

IAHWorldflyer wrote:
I recall econ passengers getting small "amenity" kits with a blanket, earphones, and eye shades.


We got those things but not as any kind of "kit". They were just things the airlines gave you separately. Blankets and pillows were usually lying on your seat. Earphones would be passed out if you needed/wanted them, but keep in mind these were reusable and were collected at the end of the flight (in other words, you were using something somebody else stuck in their ears on the flight before). Also, they only gave them out because they had to - planes still used pneumatic audio systems, and nobody had their own headphones for those.

I should also point out that most airlines flying long haul will still give you all of these things, you just might have to ask for them. But certain airlines will still walk through the cabin offering them. They just don't put any of them at your seat before you get on the plane.

Short haul, you might have to pay for them, or they might not be available at all. But long haul, every airline I've flown recently has at least had them available if you just ask.
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Channex757
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Re: How has long haul airline travel changed since the late 90s?

Wed Jan 23, 2019 5:47 am

For the USA, a better comparison would be forty years. President Carter was in office and deregulation was the theme of the day. That's when the race to cut fares and add services really got going.

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