11/18/2014 07:52 am ET Updated Jan 18, 2015

How Air Travel Has Changed In 50 Years

The Federal Aviation Administration announced a few months ago that air travelers would be able to operate most of their electronic toys throughout a flight, including takeoff and landing. I have a feeling that in 20 years we'll be laughing about the days when flight attendants yelled at us for playing Candy Crush at the wrong moments. I'm pretty fatalistic about most things, including air travel. But I sometimes get a bit concerned with the premise that someone's iPhone could seriously mess up the plane's navigation system.

The FAA's long overdue ruling brings to mind some of the other changes we've seen in air travel. To today's kids, it might seem amazing, but a passenger was allowed to smoke during a flight, assuming he was seated in the smoking section. (There were smoking sections in movie theaters, as well.) As an ex-smoker, I can appreciate how difficult it is to go cold turkey during an 11-hour flight. But then again, in those days people would drink to abandon on a long trip.

Since those were pre-laptop times, people would be a lot more social on flights. Cross-country trips bore business deals, romance and great friendships. (Or misery, when you were stuck next to an insurance man extolling the virtues of whole life versus term.)

Food was served on even two-hour flights. And it seemed that pre-9/11, flight attendants (generally known as stewardesses, and generally female) were a lot friendlier and more accommodating. Of course, in those days, airlines were profitable and probably treated their employees better.

The biggest difference between then and now relates to luggage. Most people checked their bags, so boarding a plane was a lot less like playing rugby. Because there was plenty of available overhead space, there was no reason to push your way on board. And guess what? Good manners prevailed. And that's the biggest difference between air travel then and now. Come to think of it, that doesn't apply just to air travel.

So I welcome only some of the changes. I welcome having access to my phone. But I do miss the forced socializing. I miss the civilized boarding. I even miss the meals. Mostly, I miss people not being rude every available minute of the day.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

6 Most Popular Vacation Spots With Baby Boomers