If you had wings, if you had wings. If you had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings.” (“If You Had Wings” ride, Walt Disney World, circa 1970’s)
As a kid growing up in south central Florida in the 1970’s, it was not uncommon to make a few trips a year to Disney. At least that’s what we called it. There was no Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom. It was just the Magic Kingdom. And, that’s really all that we needed.
Back in the day, there was no “All-Day Admission” price to get into the park. Instead, you bought a ticket book with tickets labeled “A” to “E” that you could use for various rides in the Magic Kingdom. The rides no one wanted to go on were “A” while the best rides — including Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion — took an “E” ticket. Needless to say, you would always run out of “E” tickets before you rode everything you wanted, but seemed to always have plenty of “A” tickets left at the end of the day.
However, there was one ride at Disney that did not require any tickets — “If You Had Wings.” Now, granted it was a corporate commercial for Eastern Airlines masquerading as a ride, but it was cool — both literally and figuratively. After a long, hot day at the Magic Kingdom, “If You Had Wings” was one of the coolest (temperature-wise) places in the park. Not only was it cool, but the scenery projected on the walls was amazing. And, for a Disney park (the only one at the time), there were no lines to get on — ever. Just hop on the moving walkway and jump into the moving car. It didn’t get much better than that!
Perhaps one of the reasons I loved “If You Had Wings” was because Eastern was the first airline that I ever flew as a kid. And, when you flew Eastern Airlines, you would not only be cordially greeted by the Captain and Flight Attendants, but you would also be given your very own “wings.” Maybe I am remembering my flights on Eastern too fondly, but it does seem that things changed following the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act. One of the main changes brought about by deregulation was the proliferation of cut-rate airlines like People’s Express (or People’s Distress as we once called them), which in-turn led to the closing of existing airlines such as Eastern, which stopped flying on January 19, 1991.
Another change brought about by the times — including not only deregulation, but also 9/11 — is the loss of “customer service” on most major airlines. While the Flight Attendants are pleasant enough, there is simply no comparison between how you were treated on flights back in the 1970’s and 1980’s versus now. For instance, who would have ever thought of a Captain diverting “his” plane because a family questioned the appropriateness of showing a violent PG-13 in-flight movie with no opt-out provisions?
Of course, that is exactly what allegedly happened aboard United Flight #638 bound from Denver to Baltimore. On drop-down screens that the Flight Attendants said could not be closed (which seems hard to believe), a family of four — including four and eight-year-old boys) were subjected to the film “Alex Cross” during their cross-country flight. When they politely asked if the could “opt-out” of seeing the movie by closing the screens — which the passengers behind them did not object to — they were told that this was not possible. When they asked to speak to the Captain, the family was rebuffed. While United made a poor choice to begin with in showing a stinker of a movie, why would they choose to show any PG-13 rated movie when the airline knew that they had a general audience — including children under the age of 13 — captive on the plane? As the father of these two young boys pointed out, anyone who objected to watching the movie had absolutely no choice (according to the Flight Attendants) but to sit and watch the movie (which included violence and nudity):
Second, and of even greater concern is United’s decision to inflict upon minors grossly inappropriate cinematic content, without parents or guardians having the ability to opt out. Had this been in a cinema or a restaurant, we would have simply left if the content were too violent, or too sexual, for a preschooler and a 2nd grader. Cruising at 30,000 feet, leaving was not an option.” (here)
So, instead of showing some common sense and allowing the parents to close the overhead screen so as to avoid watching the movie, the Captain diverted the plane to Chicago, wasting time and fuel and subjecting this family to an unnecessary interrogation by government and law enforcement officials. According to United Airlines officials:
“United flight 638 from Denver to Baltimore diverted to Chicago O’Hare after the crew reported a disturbance involving a passenger.”
So, let me get this straight. Merely questioning the propriety of showing a PG-13 movie with no opt-out for those families traveling with minors who are younger than 13 and asking to talk to a supervisor (in this case, the Captain) about what could be done is now grounds to be labeled a disturbance on United Airlines? Wow! In our post-deregulation, post-9/11 age, no wonder people — including yours truly — hate to fly. It’s not that I am afraid of flying, but I simply loathe the process of flying, including the lack of customer service and common sense that used to be the norm when flying. Where are my wings when I need them? And, where is an airline like Eastern when we need them? If I had wings, had wings, had wings. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t fly on United. At least not when I live in the Southwest!