When word spread that a lucky Lithuanian was the sole passenger on a mid-March flight from Vilnius to Bergamo, Italy, it lit up the web and prompted envious fliers to lament the loss of the “golden age of air travel.” But could it be we are in a new golden age?

I began to wonder that when a colleague sent me an e-mail with a subject line that read, “Was I flying Opium Air?”

He had just returned from trip to North Carolina that included an excellent free breakfast at his hotel, an easy car rental return, a random TSA PreCheck, and open seats on his flight.

“When it came time to board my flight, all was calm and peaceful. I settled into my aisle seat, 12D, and soon realized that just about everyone had boarded and there were plenty of empty seats, including the two next to me. This was a miracle, and yet I heard the cabin door shut, the captain came on the P.A. and said we would be departing the gate right on time, and we did,” he wrote. His flight arrived at MSP a full 35 minutes ahead of schedule.

I recently flew next to an empty seat, too.

Given bag-tracking technology, larger overhead bins and better in-flight entertainment, customer satisfaction with airlines is on the rise. In fact, the J.D. Power 2018 North America Airline Satisfaction Study marked the seventh consecutive year of improvement.

“Operationally, it’s never been a better time to fly. Passengers perceive greater value in ticket prices, checking in has never been easier, passengers are more satisfied with the actual aircraft and airlines have improved their baggage-handling performance,” said Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power when the report was released last May. (Another should be coming soon.)

None of us are likely to wind up on our own fluke solo flights, and “golden age” may be a stretch, but it seems that things aren’t so bad in the air.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.