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We’ve come a long way in the airline business! But for you who cannot possibly know, I offer a trip down memory lane!
Back in the middle 60’s when I first became a member of the travel industry, when an airline reservation was made either via phone, or in person at the airport or at the airline ticket office, the airline representative would simply pull a card, which looked much like a Bingo card, except instead of having letters and numbers, it was imprinted with flight schedules and city pairs, and would insert it into an “Instamatic” machine, highlight the proper flight, plug in the number of seats needed, and push a button to encode the inserted punch card with the pertinent information. We would then take the punch card, which we couldn’t read, along with our written notes, which sometimes we also couldn’t read, over to the twelve inch thick paper tariff and manually write the four-leg single paper ticket or multiple-leg conjunction paper tickets.
Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, note: there were domestic paper tariffs and international paper tariffs. Only really experienced agents could use the international tariffs because, in order to determine the price, one had to understand the rules and routings of any given itinerary. Stopovers and backtracking may or may not have been allowed; as well as, points beyond and hidden cities. If you are starting to think this sounds pretty complicated, we haven’t even reached the boarding gate yet!
Today, forty some years later, I still bear the lump on the third finger of my right, or should I make that my ‘write’ hand, from having to press so hard that everything I printed was discernable thru the four copies of the ticket, plus the file and auditor’s coupons, and the carbons! We then separated the good and bad parts of the tickets, stapled them into the envelope, wrote the name of the customer (more writing), proudly presented it to the passenger, and asked them to proceed to the gate!
If one was lucky that day, you were assigned to flights that weren’t oversold and that most of the customers hadn’t lost their paper tickets when they got to your gate. The procedure back then was that posted behind the airline gate agent for all to see was the seating configuration of the aircraft departing that particular location. Little sticky pull tabs with the seat numbers printed on them were still available on the chart for the unassigned seats (advanced seating back then meant the people who were in line ahead of you)! Of course, everyone opted for the window and aisle seats first, leaving the middle seats about which everyone complained (and still do), and often times, things became very complicated when people met a friend or colleague in the gate room, wanted to change their seats and the sticky part of the pull tabs was no longer functioning. The real problems, however, arose when the line in front of you was still a block long and there were only four pull tabs left on the chart. This is more commonly known as an ‘oversold’ situation! It made for some extremely nervous and obnoxious passengers (actually we couldn’t consider them a passenger at this stage of the pre-boarding experience).
So today when I sign-on to my computer, select the flight I desire, ask the computer how much it will cost, pick my seat assignments and order my electronic ticket, and get angry, because it took ten minutes out of my busy day, I only have to revisit memory lane to make me chuckle at how far we have come!
By Linda Colvos