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Good Question: How Has Air Travel Changed?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In March, Delta Airlines will start offering five different levels of pricing, ranging from a bare-bones "basic economy" all the way to an elite first-class "Delta One" ticket.

It's a far cry from the 1960s, when airlines used to print their prices weeks in advance.

So, how has airline travel changed?

"I just remember it being easier, like pleasant," said Cindy Schwartz of Excelsior.

It's easy to romanticize the good stuff, like the food, dressing up or feeling special that you were one on the select few able to travel in the air.

In 1965, about 20 percent of people had flown at least once. By 2000, about half of all Americans were averaging one round-trip a year.

There also used to be more free space on the planes. In 1968, 46 percent of the seats were filled. By 2012, it jumped to 83 percent.

"It's probably more affordable, but it's not as enjoyable," said Bruce Kitt, executive director of the NWA History Centre.

According to Airlines for America, a ticket in 1941 from Boston to Los Angeles would cost $4,397 in today's dollars. It took 15 hours with six stops.

By 1974, a cross-country trip was closer to $1,450. Now, it averages $500. Experts point to deregulation of the airline industry in the 1970s as a big factor driving down prices.

Seat size has changed as well.

"Some seats are really close and it's more crowded than it was years ago," said Sharon Danielson of Rice Lake. "But then there are some flights that are really comfy."

An analysis by USA Today found the he distance between the seats, as well as seat width, has shrunk between 1-2 inches since the mid-1980s.

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