March 2, 2021
Being stuck at home this past year has provided ample time to sort and declutter piles of travel files collected over fifty-plus years of flying.
Some stuff was just junk and got recycled. But not all was worthless; well, at least, not to me.
I came across a large cache of memorabilia of international flying starting in the 1980s when I could first afford First Class overseas. For reasons that perplex my wife—who thinks I’m crazy, anyway—I brought home quite a number of wine and food menus from some of those wonderful flights.
Looking back over those testaments to the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, I realize international First Class service reached a zenith that has never since been equaled or eclipsed. Even in the immediate post-9/11 era, while U.S. airlines drastically retrenched, most overseas carriers continued to provide superior sharp-end service. The worldwide decline in front cabin service standards, in my opinion, occurred somewhat later as most First Class cabins were replaced by improved versions of Business Class.
Recently, I began cataloging and admiring the menus I’d brought home over that 20+ year period. I have over 100, as seen in the picture below. The ones on the table are just the International FIRST CLASS menus, including two British Airways Concorde flights. The lowly business class menus are on the chair seat.
Maybe, I thought, I should blog about some of those experiences. After all, I remember a lot of those often spectacular meals. I especially remember the caviars (Beluga, Sevruga, Osetra, Iranian, and Caspian) which EVEN DELTA was serving in the 90s.
I distinctly remember the fine red wines and the Champagnes, vintages like the Dom Perignon 1980 on Concorde in 1989.
And on a bunch of menus, I made notes to myself about the food and drink. For example, one famous label French white I described as “Horrible! Like drinking ditch water.”
But my wife’s reaction, and that of a professional journalist friend whose opinion I trust, to my saving the menus was the same: Why? Meh!
This is where my expectations and levels of anticipation about flying differ from most folks. To me, the nuanced experiences of GETTING THERE has always been as important as arriving. The menus deeply thrill me with multiple layers of happy remembrances. And thus I may soon write about some of those flights and the memories they conjure.