Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Better trips

Back in the early 90's I joined a company starting up an exciting service. Ok, I and many others thought it was exciting but over time and after further advances in technology it's appeal dropped to the point of people questioning if it was ever used. It was used.
I'm referring to Airfone. When I joined the company the name was GTE Airfone.  
This post is not so much about the business or even the technology. I would happy to answer questions about that. Just leave your question in the comments. Today I just want to reminisce about some great travel memories I had while working for them.
I suspect other biz travelers out there long for the way air travel was back in the 90's. There was good competition for grabbing bigger biz travel market share. The airlines tried to out perform each other's service and the traveler benefited.
Any of you remember seeing this?

Back then, I even held PREMIER status once. Now they make me feel like I rank just below dirt bag.
Well back before there were laptops on the tray tables. We were equipping the major US airlines with seat phones. I traveled on those airlines at least once a month. Many trips to the UK., the west coast, and even one to China (China Southern Airlines).

I had the privilege of having a network test card so I could call anywhere in the US on the Airfone system from my seat. I would typically do a test call to home or some other family member. I think the calls sometimes became annoying for them.
I soon realized I had something worth trading with the flight attendants (FA). This trading for a drink, food, or first class desert would often work then because the flights then often were 1/2 or 3/4 full, so the FA about half way or so into the flight would be able to sit back and relax in the back. That's when I would suggest a deal.

One flight coming back late from California, I eagerly waited to demonstrate the power of this card to a new co-worker. Ok, I wanted to show off a bit.

After I was able to explain the deal to the FA, she was more than willing to get both of us these huge fudge sundaes (in real glassware) from first class. We got a good laugh when she stopped by and explained why we needed to wait just a little longer - she had to serve them to first class first. The other funny thing was after we landed she or another FA seem to have lost my test card. I'll never know if it was true, but they did tear apart a few rows of seats looking.

Other flying treats I miss: Free class upgrades, free passes to the airport lounge, empty seats in my row. Please share any good times you had in the air in the comments.



Yuh, I remember the 90's...that was the era when, as a non-rev, I could get on just about any flight I wanted...plenty of empty seats, always flew first class! I remember those hot fudge sundays...I don't mean to complain about free seats, but I have to say, it's not as easy to get a seat especially out of Houston. On occasion, not in Houston but on short flights ie to Tampa...I might make it up to first class and boy do I enjoy it! But who's compmlaining???just remembering the good ole days. I do remember those phones, don't think ever saw anyone using one.
Great Blog!

Vicky said...

I used to fly so much. I was severely delayed In Salt Lake City, flying to Minnesota for a funeral. I was also pregnant... the longer I was delayed, the more perks I enjoyed, food, mileage, upgraded seats, more food... and finally a travel voucher for a free trip. I still made the funeral even...

Great post, its always interesting to have something to barter :)

Bill Lisleman said...

@freeflyingmom - never saw anyone using them? well the usage was never real high but as I pointed out I used them. I noticed many times, that after I used it I would see others getting on it. Power of suggestion?

@vicky - funeral, pregnant - you were pulling out all the stops - you play violin? Always good to see some one knowing how to work the system since their system seems to get back at us too often.

Unknown said...

When I was a little kid, we used to get the wings. And on one transatlantic flight, we were seated next to an artist who drew cartoons of my siblings and me on the back of the vomit bag. My mom still has them somewhere.

Bill Lisleman said...

@class=factotum - that's great what an interesting piece of art. You need to get that, scan it, and post it on your blog. really

William F. Torpey said...

I think it was in the early '90's when my late wife and I flew Piedmont Airlines from NY to Fort Lauderdale. When she bought the tickets I wasn't too happh that we didn't get a direct flight. We had to make two stops on the way, but we were seated way back where the flight attendants were busy preparing the food and drinks. I was chatting with the attendants quite a bit and they responded by slipping me quite a few ophypefree drinks. I r-e-a-l-l-y enjoyed that trip, and I was feeling quite good when we arrived in Florida.

Bill Lisleman said...

@william f. torpey - good to see you here again. I forgot to mention how the international flights all gave free alcoholic drinks to even coach class. The drinks help me doze off but I've never felt drunk. The altitude also adds to the effect.
thanks for sharing.

Pat said...

Flying is anything but fun these days, but yes, it used to be. The movie "Catch Me If You Can" captures that feeling: people actually used to get dressed up to get on an airplane and pilots were sex symbols. Stewardesses weren't bad either. That was a while back though, and now the only way to get through the experience is to have a drink, which you'll pay for, listen to music, ditto, and zone out, still free I think, although I'd have to check airline regulations.

Bill Lisleman said...

@pat - back when everyone called them stewardesses things were different. That movie is a favorite and to think the basic story is true.
thanks for sharing.

The Flying Pinto said...

Hey, funny post! I remember was too expensive for me: ) Wish you were on my flights w/ that card! They did give us a pretty good discount...can't remember what it was. I used it a couple times to call scheduling to ask for a personal drop (day off) the call had to be placed at a certain time of day. I would have definitely traded you a hot fudge sundae for that card...back then I probably could have moved you up to first class;-)

Bill Lisleman said...

@flying pinto - thanks - hey I still have an old card if you are collecting. I don't recall getting to first class by bartering my card but then back then with empty seats next to me, first class appeal was more food and drink than space.

Lilly said...

I used to fly a lot too but I dont remember too many good times like you seem to have had. The good old days hey? Did you fly a lot in your job?

Bill Lisleman said...

@lilly - I don't fly much anymore since my job is no more. Yes my career included many trips and many were fun. There were some trips that were a disaster.

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