I own Midtown travel in NYC. I have been a travel agent for thirty years, starting at Rosenbluth Travel in Philadelphia while attending Temple University. It was very difficult to get a job in travel because no one had the time to train you. I was lucky thanks to one of the owners who gave me a break. My job was to hand write tickets and validate them, the beauty of that was I learned airport codes as well as how to write a ticket and read an OAG [Official Airline Guide].
In early 1979 we received our first batch of AA Sabre computers. I was lucky to be part of the first wave of automation. I was sent to Dallas to train for the first time at AA [American Airines]’s training center. I was amazed at how intense the center was especially for flight attendants. It was so demanding and regimented that travel agents called the women in the flight attendants program “Stepford Wives.” They would get weighed in every week and if they gained more than I think it was two pounds they had a few weeks to loose it or they were out. These women would show up in the cafeteria at 7:00 am in full makeup and dressed to the nine’s. I had such respect for these women knowing I could never conform to that standard. At the time it seemed so normal even though it was really sexist. I did not qualify to be a flight attendant because I was five feet one and a half inches tall and you had to be five feet two; plus the weight requirement were so low I was also considered too fat! That being said there was something magical about that time.
Having a career in the airline industry including the travel industry as a whole was a prestigious occupation. At that time you did not need a college education to get ahead you just needed to be smart and eager to learn. Most women could only get jobs as a secretary to some man. I did not have the best writing skills and I could not type to save my life, but I had a great mind for math and science. I was so happy to have a job in travel, having a passion for traveling it what attracted me to the industry in the first place.
After moving back to New York and working for a few travel agencies I worked at Pisa Brothers Travel, what a great place to work. I had a mentor named Francis who was part owner she was the “queen of FIT travel,” a class act. Francis knew so much about first class travel she had been around the world. We would type out full itineraries from being picked up at your house to your return home. It was so consuming but you learned about the world in a very intimate way.
The point I am trying to make is that the entire industry has been watered down. I believe it all started with Freddie Laker and deregulation. When competition started in the airline industry it was the beginning of the end. You can’t fly someone RT [round trip] to LAX [Los Angeles International Airport] for NYC for $199.00 and make money, you could not do it in 1978 and you certainly can’t do it now. We need to regulate the industry again to ensure better service and less consumption. Now that the price of oil is so high less people are traveling and that is good. The trend is even better for the effect it has on families. We now have “staycations.” People are staying home with their families and getting to know their neighbors. It’s funny how life comes full circle. Now we need to work on the computer and cellular phone problem.