We can travel basically anywhere in the world on a whim. Average roundtrip airfares between New York and London were about $6500 (in today’s dollars) back in the 1950s. I could fly there for $500 in 2 weeks. Despite rising fixed costs, airfares continue (for the most part) to be incredibly affordable in ways that most other countries can only dream about. It’s changed the way we keep in touch with friends, go on vacation, and do business. We’re all better off because we can fly off to Michigan to visit friends for $150, when driving the same route would cost about $180 in gas.
Frequent flyer programs and the growing airline alliances have allowed us to visit roughly anywhere in the world for free — and it is truly free for many of us, as we accumulate those miles on our companies’ dime. 20 years ago Albania was closed off to the rest of the world. This summer, I called Continental, used 50,000 miles (thanks to work trips to Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta, mostly), and 10 days later was on a plane to Tirana on a Skyteam partner. If we can stop complaining for a moment, think about how insane that is. The world has become accessible in a way it never has before.
I wholeheartedly endorse all of the above — except the advisability of flying to Albania in coach. Egads.