BC… (Before Computers)

My travel carrier began in 1987 and computers were already in the industry, but not as we know them. They were big and bulky and slow but we could play lots of tricks on them. My favorite was when only one seat was available we would get a colleague and together we would quickly sell one seat and make two! But then in the mid ‘90’s the airlines took away our commission (the ten percent we would get) and used that money to upgrade their programs. All our games went away!

What was life BC? I have two colleagues who are BC… When I went to travel school I needed to learn all the BC methods and the computer. BC for airline flights, there was a large paper book about the size of the old Yellow Pages. If you were looking for a fare from Boston to London on British Airways, then called British Overseas Airlines Corporation or BOAC as I still hear many call it, you would look it up in the book. I do not remember how it was categorized. But it was slow and very small print. The good side was there were only two fares first and coach. Then we would take a paper ticket and hand-write the information and again hand-write a credit card form. Last week an agent was saying how people would just come to the airport and buy a ticket before boarding the plane!

BC life was simple and slow. Today I can access the Boston to London information in seconds. One more second and change from British Airways to Delta or Virgin Airlines. In less than ten seconds the computer will tell me which flight has the lowest coach fare with no change of planes. Then in another few seconds I can ask the same for a change of one plane (such as going through Dublin) and then multiple stops. It is all so amazing! Some of you spend a lot of time searching for the fares!

Along with the computer came multiple fares. Today there are not just the first and coach class fares, but: refundable and nonrefundable, advance purchase of 21, 14, 7 and 3 days, weekend and week day, then there are the seasons; summer, shoulder (fall and spring) and winter. One day can make the difference in a fare. And now those British Airways flights have four cabins; first, business, mid class and coach. So can you imagine the number of combinations using all these options? For example on the 20th of October for a flight from Boston to London on British Airways there are 56 different fares! Virgin has 82! And Delta 100! We have not even talked about the rest of the world.

BC hotels were telexed, faxed or heaven forbid if you needed the expensive telephone call; again all very slow and time consuming. Cars… I can remember my first manager did not know how to book a car in the computer and of course I did not either! Now in seconds I can get the prices for a dozen car companies in London from subcompact to luxury! Your choice…..

I cannot wait for my new computer to arrive and I can work from home and email my friends!

About alwaysharriet

With thirty years experience in corporate and leisure travel consulting, Harriet Ahouse has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean and worldwide. An avid scuba diver, she understands the requirements of travelers both on land and in the water. On the European scene she has offered traditional and personalized travel itineraries throughout the continent--Italy, France, and England are some of her favorites. As a Virtuoso Agent, she also has extensive resources to enhance her expertise in designing individual destination travel itineraries--and honeymoons--worldwide!
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