How did aviation change the travel experience?
“It is not necessarily impossible for human beings to fly, but it so happens [sic!] that God did not give them the knowledge of how to do it. It follows, therefore, that anyone who claims that he can fly must have sought the aid of the devil. To attempt to fly is therefore sinful.”
— Roger Bacon, thirteenth century Franciscan friar.
A lot of things have changed since this quotation was made. On 25 August 1919 a reporter from the London Evening Standard became the world’s first airline passenger on an international scheduled flight when a de Havilland 4A bomber, converted by British Aircraft Transport and Travel, flew from London to Paris. Mankind really made it possible for everyone to travel by aeroplane today. Thereby aviation and the plane is the most recent development as a means of transportation. It had (and still has) to face as many difficulties as every other new invention. Air travel has become a necessity for those people who seek a modern life that includes tourism and, increasingly, a professional, high-paid job with a global corporation. The spread of low cost airlines has been the most striking development in airline competition in Europe over the past decade and has been the main stimulator of new air traffic, opening the market to those who could not previously afford air travel. For a lot of people air travel became a common thing and even I have used a plane six times within one year.
This Essay will focus on commercial aviation and traveller’s experience in the late 20th century rather than the very first beginnings of flying in the past centuries. Furthermore when we talk of flights we mostly mean transcontinental flights because within Great Britain passenger air transport is still a minority transport option. Indeed even in the 1990s the proportion of total passenger travel within Britain undertaken by air was still under 1 per cent. Unlike road and rail transport, air transport is the fastest and most costly of all transport modes and it inherently is, like shipping, a long-distance mode.
Unfortunately not much has been written about the air travel experience although travelling by plane is so exceptional to other modes of transportation and still a lot of people are afraid of flying and therefore experience a journey by plane much different compared to a trip by rail, car or bicycle.
2. Fear of Flying
“I now know the color of fear. . . . It's brown.”
— Anonymous skydiver.
Especially the terrorist acts of 9/11 caused a rise in aviatophobia. Despite the fact that safety controls on airports and at the check-in has immensely increased (later more on that topic) a lot of people are afraid of terrorist attacks. The fear of flying may be also created by various other phobias and fears: a feeling of not being in control, a fear of turbulences, fear of crashing resulting in injury or death, a fear of closed in spaces, and a fear of heights. Although air travel is still considered as the safest mode of transportation, the life-or-death-aspect of flying frames the experience. Superstition plays a big role in aviation and therefore there is often no row 13 in European airlines. Unlike almost every other kind of experience with professional services, travelling by air requires us to surrender total control of our existence. In a plane there is no possibility to pull the emergency cord like in a train or to stop the car when you are feeling anxious. Another factor that elicits a fear of flying is the fact that plane crashes are, on the one hand, mostly deadly and disastrous, and, on the other hand, that the media often exaggerates and sensationalises airline crashes and its high casualty rate per incident compared to other transportation accidents.
 Taken from English, Dave: “Great Aviation Quotes” <http://www.skygod.com/quotes> (last visit on 2009-12-09)
 Essay on “The Beginnings of British Commercial Aviation”, U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission:
<http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Commercial_Aviation/britain/Tran18.htm> (Last visit on 2009-12-09.)
 Gottdiener, Mark: Life in the Air : Surviving the New Culture of Air Travel. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001: p. 115.
 0.8 per cent in 1993. Bagwell, Philip and Peter Lyth: Transport in Britain: From Canal Lock to Gridlock. London: Hambledon and London, 2002: p. 159
 Taken from “Great Aviation Quotes”
 Taken from: Captain S. L. Chance "Fear of Flying Media Kit" <http://fearofflyinghelp.com/MediaKit.shtml> (last visited on 2009-12-08)See Appendix for further details.
 Gottdiener (2001): p. 114.
 A well-written and quite funny article about air travel and superstition: Grossman, David : “ Check Your Travel Superstitions, or Carry Them On?” <http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/grossman/2005-10-31-grossman_x.htm> (last visited on 2009-12-09)
 Gottdiener (2001): p. 114.