Come fly with me

The first time I ever booked a flight from Ireland to Great Britain – or to be precise, from Dublin to London Heathrow – was in December 1980. Prior to that I had always taken the ferry, but on this occasion I had little time for the trip and needed to take a plane. I still have the ticket. It tells me that the cost of the return flight was £285. In today’s money, I calculate that in real terms it would be around €1,300. And it may be worth adding that this was an economy class ticket; business class would have cost goodness know how much.

A few years later budget airlines came on the scene, and the established carriers also slashed their prices, and today you can (if you plan carefully) make the same trip for a fraction of that price. And it is not just to London. Today if I want to travel to, say, Cork or Galway, I have a real choice I can make between bus, train and airline – with the cost not hugely different between these modes. And again, if I plan well and book wisely, I can travel to New York pretty much for the price I once had to pay to get to London.

On the other hand, talk about carbon footprints, the recession, oil prices and other considerations tends to generate an air of uncertainty these days about the future of air travel as a cheap and quick option. And when we fly, it’s not the pleasant experience that some would have considered it years ago, with post-9/11 security checks, airport delays, air traffic congestion and other hazards. Some may also argue that we can now meet ‘virtually’ online so easily that some air travel for business purposes is no longer necessary.

And yet, I value the way the world has become smaller and it has become easier for us to meet other people and cultures with relative ease. And so I hope the era of accessible global travel is not over just yet. We may need to find ways of doing it with other sources of energy, and no doubt we need to address the congestion issues both on and off the ground; but it still strikes me as important that we do not lose this important part of modern life and culture, and this important way of maintaining a community spirit that embraces the whole world because all of it is accessible to us.

Explore posts in the same categories: society, transport

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