I was recently at an airline-industry trade show, and picked up a relatively small (roughly 7X4 inches; 19X11 centimeters) printed booklet at one of the stands. While it had a color cover, and a few other color photos, along with a nice foldout map of the carrier's worldwide route system at the back, most of the document consisted of tabular material printed in black & white, with single-color accents.
However, the content could occupy the average airline buff for hours. Beginning with news about the airline, and followed by succinct information about luggage, travel document requirements, bookings, seating policies for infants, check-in times, and a number of other points of general information, the next section provides a glimpse into the actual flight experience, including a brief explanation of the onboard service, including meals.
Scheduling enthusiasts will be thrilled with the following section, which provides detailed information about each flight, including the routing, by segment; sector times; classes of service offered; meals; days of operation; and finally, arrival and departure times for each segment. No need to guess what the intermediate stop on your flight will be!
One item not included is the equipment type, however this is readily available from the next section, which constitutes the vast majority of pages in the publication. Here, in 'quick-reference' form are the schedules for each individual market served by this carrier, both nonstop and direct (multi-stop) as well as connecting services, including those involving partner airlines that serve points not directly on the airline's route network. Helpfully, the page at the beginning of this section illustrates how to use this information, in the form of the "Key to Flight Information" to assist the uninitiated in understanding what is provided.
After that come several pages of detailed seat diagrams of the carrier's aircraft; most of them come in more than one configuration. A listing of sales offices follows, along with information about the airports served, including the location of airport lounges as appropriate. Since this airline also operates all-cargo services, much of the information, including schedules, office locations and aircraft diagrams (certainly not seat charts!) is repeated for this line of business, albeit in a considerably smaller number of pages. Connecting trucking services are shown, as well as diagrams and specifications for containers/unit load devices. Returning to more general information, the book concludes with some more general information, decoding the airlines, aircraft types and airports used in the schedule section.
I suspect that virtually all readers will recognize that this entertaining document goes by the name 'Timetable', which is displayed prominently on the cover, primarily for novice users that might not recognize immediately what it is. The one being discussed here is from Emirates, covering the time period between March 25th and October 27, 2012.
Once, timetables were ubiquitous. Industry insiders and heavy-duty frequent flyers had access to, and utilized compilations of schedules issued by entities such as the OAG, and at one point, ABC, but most travelers relied on the individual timetables of the carriers that they used. Most of the airlines took the opportunity to include promotional, and sometimes advertising material in their timetables issued to the public (some also produced timetables for employees and travel agents, which, while containing the same basic schedule information, often had a different emphasis, and included additional, more detailed information); Emirates carries on this tradition with several pages touting aspects of its service, as well as a page advertising a resort & spa in Australia.
Today, very few carriers continue to issue timetables, at least in printed form. Much of the information, including an item no longer included in timetables -- prices -- is available on the internet, of course, but searching out all the items contained in the current Emirates timetable would require looking in a number of places, and some items, including the flight routings, may not be readily available from all carriers.
In the U.S. market, printed airline timetables have become essentially extinct. I believe that Southwest was the last practitioner among the major carriers, but even they ceased publication several years ago. Some carriers, including American, Delta and United still include electronic versions, in PDF form on the their websites, but many passengers are unaware of their existence, and they generally don't contain the full panoply of information that the Emirates printed version does. Lufthansa has recognized this deficiency, stating that "The 'Yellow Booklet' is back", with its traditional timetable format available as a PDF on its website in both English and German. And as the advertisement at the back of the Emirates timetable states, "Boredom is grounded indefinitely". In reality, this refers to the inflight entertainment system, but for some of us, it could be a reference to the timetable itself.
Finally, a couple of concerns, however. Without the widespread availability of timetables, access to a computer will be necessary for incipient airline enthusiasts; that means that the information won't be available during takeoff and landing, for example. And more urgently, how will young airline buffs learn to read?