Wheels Up!

November 2011

I process preflight announcements like random words read from a dictionary, what with all those tedious advisories about seatbelts and nearest exits and flotation devices. But during a recent cross-country trip, one unfamiliar phrase jumped out: The flight attendants, we were told, were aboard “primarily for your safety,” which I took to mean, “Anyone who whines about needing more apple juice will be fed into the maw of our left engine.”

The in-flight entertainment began about 15 minutes later with a commercial for the new ABC-TV series “Pan Am,” a ’60s-era set piece that evokes a time when air travel involved a whiff of glamour, fine dining, and serious wardrobe choices. Omitted from the promo, though, were comments by Pamela Taylor, a Pan Am flight attendant from that period who appears in a video on the ABC website: “Flying in the Pan Am era was unlike flying today. It’s the difference between heaven and hell.”

But even as life aboard airplanes has devolved in our post-9/11 world—where on-board pay toilets seem like the next logical step—the airport experience actually seems to be improving. With this issue’s cover story, “Flying Higher”, we celebrate John Wayne Airport’s efforts to restore civility to the air travel experience, and to make SNA feel a lot more like home.

This month marks the unveiling of the airport’s $540 million upgrade, and, reports contributing writer Scott Christian, “from the moment you arrive, you’ll see the results.” You’ll be guided to a parking place by a sophisticated space-counting system, and check in at any automated kiosk, no matter your airline. Your passage through the expanded terminal will include the sights of art and sculpture, the sounds of wine bottles being uncorked at a new wine bar and milkshake mixers at Ruby’s, as well as the alluring aromas of Javier Sosa’s steak picado, Jerry O’Connell’s wood-fired hot dogs, and Zov Karamardian’s fabled golden lentil soup.

Suddenly, arriving hours before your flight doesn’t sound so bad.

Martin J. Smith

Illustration by John Ueland

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