Early air travel (1950s – 60s) is often romanticized as the “Golden Age of Travel”, but what was it really like to fly back in those days?

 

We often hear about the so-called “Golden Age of Travel”, when men and women only travelled with their finest apparel and there were no riff raff on the planes. Well that might be due to…

 

Air travel was bloody expensive

Braniff Airliner 1960s

Braniff Airliner 1960s

A flight from Chicago to Phoenix on TWA round trip was $138 round-trip, sounds cheap right? Well adjusted for inflation that’s about $1,168, and to further put that into perspective, that would have been 5% of the average person’s annual salary.

No wonder they got dressed up for it, I would too if I just blew that much of my salary on an event. Especially if it might be the last thing I’d be wearing, because you see…

 

It was very dangerous

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Today, flying is one of the safest ways to travel, it was a little bit different back in the so called Golden Age. Let’s imagine an airplane that hits a patch of turbulence and drops 500 feet, today it’s really not much of an issue, perhaps just a few passengers needing to change their underwear due to a scare, easy.

During the Golden Age, due to lower cabin ceilings and inferior seat belt designs, the same incident could snap your neck. Ouch!

There were glass dividers between economy and first class that would shatter during turbulence and if you happen to trip on your way to the bathroom, there’s jagged edges to hit your head on. All adds to the excitement, which is probably a plus because…

 

Air travel was very boring

Today we get on flights and we have our phones, tablets and laptops to keep us entertained on our wifi enabled planes.

Even when we don’t bring our devices there’s an array of entertainment options like movies, tv shows and games on the on board entertainment system. To be fair, they did provide you with postcards to write, what a way to spend your time. This is probably the reason that planes were just…

 

Booze buses

Inside a Pan Am Plane

Inside a Pan Am Plane

This sounds like a positive but it’s really not. Yes, back then there was unlimited alcohol service when you fly, but when people are bored, they tend to just keep drinking to pass the time.

Whilst it didn’t tend to get violent, there are a lot of reports of other bad behaviour like stumbling down the aisle, molesting stewardesses, singing and of course profuse vomiting. Perhaps it was the booze mixed in with the atmosphere of…

 

Smoke filled cans

The only time you couldn’t smoke on a plane was when it was on the ground, because the airlines were afraid that smoking may ignite the fuel fumes during refueling. So imagine an airtight plane filled with smokers for an 8 hour flight. That really ruins the idea of the glamourous Golden Age.

But it wasn’t all bad, obviously there was a reason as to why this period is so romanticized.

 

The Good

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I completely understand the need for airport security but it is a major inconvenience.

These days they advice you to arrive at least 3 hours before an international flight but in those days, you can arrive 30 minutes ahead and still make it to your flight with time to spare. There were no uncomfortable random body searches or emptying your pockets or removing your shoes.

Pan Am Stewardesses 1950s

Pan Am Stewardesses 1950s

Here’s a big plus, back then economy is spatially comparable to business class seats today. When you get to your spacious seat, everything was complimentary. The ratio of stewardesses to passengers was also much higher back then so you could expect one in an instant to cater to your needs.

There’s a lot to be said about progress and it’s exciting to see how things will change over the next 60 years.

What would you like to see change in air travel over the next 10 years? Let us know your pet peeves that could be easily fixed in the comments section below.