Skift Take

Now that there's been all this consolidation in the airline industry, maybe they'll be profitable enough to afford some meals and silverware in coach. Otherwise, these vintage airline spoons will signal the unappetizing end of an era.

For a journalist covering the travel industry, this was the ultimate scoop: I recently inherited my Dad’s vintage collection of airline spoons.

And forks.

More than 80 stainless steel beauties, in all.

My Dad, Frank Schaal, a retired electrician, refugee from Nazi Germany, poet/philosopher, social activist and traveler, died at age 91 in Sarasota, Florida, in early June.

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The spoons hung proudly in a glass case on display in my parents’ Sarasota condo, a monument to a German-Jewish family dispersed to Israel, the UK and the U.S., and the flights to catch up with all the parents, brothers, cousins, in-laws, and friends scattered around the globe.

We’d agreed years ago that I would be the family member to inherit the collection.

To see a sample of this vintage airline spoon collection, take a look at the gallery (below.) Photos by Dan Nguyen.

Like my father, who very sadly isn’t with us anymore, many of the airlines represented in the collection have departed, too. Witness TWA, BOAC, BEA, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, Viva Air, and Swissair, for example.

Other functioning airlines, including World Airways, Virgin Atlantic, VIA, United, TAP, Thai, Qantas, PIA, Iberia, El Al, British Airways, Air India, and Air Jamaica, are featured, as well.

Let’s remember that in the so-called glory days of air travel, complimentary onboard meals in Economy and real silverware were a given when you flew, although in the U.S. much of this began disappearing after September 11, 2001.

My Dad nabbed his first spoon for the collection in 1965 on a 20th wedding-anniversary package-tour to Scandinavia, my mom Eva Schaal, 90, recalls.

On the flight, my Dad asked a steward whether he could buy one of the spoons brought out for an onboard meal, and the steward said he would look away so my father could take one.

My father never asked again — and the rest is history.

Over the years, friends who’d learned of my Dad’s airline-silverware swiping and collecting began bringing back more spoons to add to his collection from their trips, as well.

But, all things, including decent cutlery in Economy, must pass, as do parents eventually and other loved ones, too.

“As airlines saw demand and revenues fall after 9/11, they took steps to cut costs,” says Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Hudson Crossing, and a past employee of Continental Airlines. “AmericaWest [which merged with US Airways] was the first airline to go to buy-onboard meals in coach. Along with reducing the amount of money they spent on economy class meal service, other airlines began using plastic cutlery in coach as a way to further reduce their expenses.”

We’ve spared no expense in the vintage airline-spoons gallery (below), which is an ode to a bygone era in air travel, and a Dad who traveled for fun and family, and lived a very good life.

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