Let’s take a quick free Flight. Operated by your device, to 60 years ago, and learn how people were booking their flights at that time. We hope that you enjoy this flight with us!
To book a flight nowadays, you log onto the internet and not only select the route! You pay for the ticket, choose your seats, order a special meal, print your boarding pass, and even compare prices from different airlines! Thanks to the internet, that made it that simple and fun. However, how did people, at times when the internet didn’t exist, manage to book their flights?
The travel agent was a king. Using shoeboxes and blackboards was how airline reservations were organized. A single price existed for each class of travel between two airports. To book a flight, let’s say from Heathrow to Paris, you first need to go to a travel agent. The agent would ask you the dates you wish to travel on, then look up in a very thick book to price the ticket.
If you wish to proceed, the agent has to call the airline to find availability, and that’s the reservations unit that the agent calls. Usually, this unit is a massive room with all the walls covered with blackboards with each flight date and number on them besides the current available number of seats in each class.
After you pick a flight and pay for it, instructions were given to the reservations agent at the unit, and then they’d climb up a ladder to wipe out the number chalked on the blackboard and reduce it by one (or by the number of seats that you’ve booked).
The exact process was repeated for the return flight. Your details are then written on two pieces of card, one for each bound of the journey, then are placed into the relevant shoebox for that flight. These were called Passenger Name Records (PNR), the same term used nowadays but in computer systems.
Finally, on the day of departure, all the shoeboxes for the flights departing are taken to the airport for check-in. And, this is how people at that time were booking their flights!
In these interconnected, peer-driven times, it all seems so foreign. Carbon copies and inventory boards have been replaced by cloud-based servers, complex algorithms, and big data. Users book their accommodations, and travel agents are largely a thing of the past. Travel has never been easier, and consumers have never been more empowered.
Along the way, there have been casualties. Travel agents were once a thriving industry, but they have since vanished. All of the extra employees who were once required to keep track of reservations and inventory have been rendered obsolete. Whole industries have disintegrated and largely vanished, while others have sprung up to service the new online economy.
Everything, as it always does, changes. For the time being, that change has made it much easier for ordinary people to plan their trips and for businesses to run their operations. As the pace of change quickens, astute entrepreneurs and forward-thinking customers keep their eyes on the horizon for the next big shift in the way we travel.
Returning to 2022 and our fantastic internet services that made our lives easier, we hope you’ve enjoyed this quick flight with us!
- Aviation logistics|The Dynamic Partnership of Air Freight and Supply Chain| – Michael Sales
- Cover Image by Joshua Woroniecki