HomeTravelWhat the 'golden age' of flying was really like

What the ‘golden age’ of flying was really like

Editor’s Note — Monthly Ticket is a CNN Travel collection that spotlights some of the most fascinating subjects in the journey world. In August, we’re going again in time to revisit some of the best retro journey experiences.

(CNN) — Cocktail lounges, 5 course meals, caviar served from ice sculptures and an countless stream of champagne: life on board airplanes was fairly completely different throughout the “golden age of travel,” the interval from the Nineteen Fifties to the Nineteen Seventies that’s fondly remembered for its glamor and luxurious.

It coincided with the daybreak of the jet age, ushered in by plane like the de Havilland Comet, the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8, which had been utilized in the Nineteen Fifties for the first scheduled transatlantic companies, earlier than the introduction of the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747, in 1970. So what was it really like to be there?

“Air travel at that time was something special,” says Graham M. Simons, an aviation historian and creator. “It was luxurious. It was smooth. It was fast.

“People dressed up as a result of of it. The workers was actually carrying high fashion uniforms. And there was way more area: seat pitch — that is the distance between the seats on the plane — was in all probability 36 to 40 inches. Now it is down to twenty-eight, as they cram an increasing number of individuals on board.”

Golden era

Sunday roast is carved for passengers in first class on a BOAC VC10 in 1964.

Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet/Keith Lovegrove

With passenger numbers just a fraction of what they are today and fares too expensive for anyone but the wealthy, airlines weren’t worried about installing more seats, but more amenities.

“The airways had been advertising and marketing their flights as luxurious means of transport, as a result of in the early Nineteen Fifties they had been up in opposition to the cruise liners,” adds Simons.

“So there have been lounge areas, and the risk of 4, 5, even six course meals. Olympic Airways had gold-plated cutlery in the top quality cabins.

“Some of the American airlines had fashion shows down the aisle, to help the passengers pass the time. At one stage, there was talk of putting baby grand pianos on the aircraft to provide entertainment.”

The likes of Christian Dior, Chanel and Pierre Balmain had been working with Air France, Olympic Airways and Singapore Airlines respectively to design crew uniforms.

Being a flight attendant — or a stewardess, as they had been known as till the Nineteen Seventies — was a dream job.

“Flight crews looked like rock stars when they walked through the terminal, carrying their bags, almost in slow motion,” says designer and creator of the e-book “Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet, Keith Lovegrove.”They had been very trendy, and all people was both good-looking or stunning.”

Most passengers tried to follow suit.

Relaxed attitude

Pan American World Airways is perhaps the airline most closely linked with the 'Golden age'.

Pan American World Airways is maybe the airline most intently linked with the ‘Golden age’.

Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“It was like going to a cocktail social gathering. We had a shirt and tie and a jacket, which sounds ridiculous now, however was anticipated then,” adds Lovegrove, who began flying in the 1960s as a child with his family, often getting first class seats as his father worked in the airline industry.

“When we flew on the jumbo jet, the very first thing my brother and I might do was go up the spiral staircase to the prime deck, and sit in the cocktail lounge.”

“This is the era the place you’d smoke cigarettes on board and also you’d have free alcohol.

“I don’t want to put anyone in trouble, but at a young age we were served a schooner of sherry before our supper, then champagne and then maybe a digestive afterwards, all below drinking age.

“There was an unbelievable sense of freedom, regardless of the truth that you simply had been caught on this fuselage for just a few hours.”

According to Lovegrove, this relaxed attitude also extended to security.

“There was little or no of it,” he says. “We as soon as flew out to the Middle East from the UK with a budgerigar, a pet chicken, which my mom took on board in a shoebox as hand baggage.

“She punched two holes in the top, so the little bird could breathe. When we were brought our three-course meal, she took the lettuce garnish off the prawn cocktail and laid it over the holes. The bird sucked it in. Security-wise, I don’t think you could get away with that today.”

‘Impeccable service’

A Pan Am flight attendant serves champagne in the first class cabin of a Boeing 747 jet.

A Pan Am flight attendant serves champagne in the top quality cabin of a Boeing 747 jet.

Tim Graham/Getty Images

The airline most frequently related to the golden age of journey is Pan Am, the first operator of the Boeing 707 and 747 and the business chief on transoceanic routes at the time.

“My job with Pan Am was an adventure from the very day I started,” says Joan Policastro, a former flight attendant who labored with the airline from 1968 till its dissolution in 1991.

“There was no comparison between flying for Pan Am and any other airline. They all looked up to it.

“The meals was spectacular and repair was impeccable. We had ice swans in top quality that we might serve the caviar from, and Maxim’s of Paris [a renowned French restaurant] catered our meals.

Policastro remembers how passengers would come to a lounge in entrance of top quality “to sit and chat” after the meal service.

“A lot of times, that’s where we sat too, chatting with our passengers. Today, passengers don’t even pay attention to who’s on the airplane, but back then, it was a much more social and polite experience,” says Policastro, who labored as a flight attendant with Delta earlier than retiring in 2019.

Suzy Smith, who was additionally a flight attendant with Pan Am beginning in 1967, additionally remembers sharing moments with passengers in the lounge, together with celebrities like actors Vincent Price and Raquel Welch, anchorman Walter Cronkite and the Princess Grace of Monaco.

Luxurious world

Travelers are served a buffet on board a Lockheed Super Constellation while flying with former American airline Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1955.

Travelers are served a buffet on board a Lockheed Super Constellation whereas flying with former American airline Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1955.

Mondadori through Getty Images

The upstairs lounge on the Boeing 747 was ultimately changed by a eating room.

“We set the tables with tablecloths. It was quite fabulous,” says Smith. “People could not sit up there for takeoff and landing, but went up to have dinner. After a while, they did away with the dining room too, and they put first class seats up there.”

The top quality service was worthy of a restaurant.

“We started with canapés, then we came out with a cart with appetizers, which included beluga caviar and foie gras,” she explains. “After that we had a cart with a large salad bowl and we mixed it ourselves before serving it.

“Then there all the time was some type of roast, like a chateaubriand or rack of lamb or roast beef, and it got here on the aircraft uncooked and we cooked it in the galley.

“We took it out on another cart and we carved it in the aisle. But in addition to that we had at least five other entrees, a cheese and fruit cart, and a dessert cart. And we served Crystal or Dom Perignon champagne.”

Things weren’t too unhealthy in economic system both.

“Food came on the plane in aluminum pans and we would cook it and dish it all up,” Smith says. “The trays were large and came with real glasses.

“If we had a breakfast flight, they’d board uncooked eggs and we must break them right into a silver terrine and whip them up, soften the butter, and cook dinner them up with the sausage or no matter else we had been having.”

On top of dressing to the nines, passengers also didn’t have much carry-on luggage.

“When I first began, there was no such factor as wheels on a suitcase,” adds Smith. “We all the time checked them in, after which we carried a tote bag on board.

“There were no overhead bins either. The only things you could put up there were coats and hats. People only brought on one piece of luggage, that would fit under the seat.”

It wasn’t all excellent. Smoking was permitted on board, filling up the cabins a lot to the dismay of flight attendants; it was progressively banned beginning in the Nineteen Eighties.

Fondly remembered

A first-class 'Slumberette' on a Lockheed Constellation, in the early 1950s.

A primary-class ‘Slumberette’ on a Lockheed Constellation, in the early Nineteen Fifties.

Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet/Keith Lovegrove

Many airways had strict bodily necessities for hiring flight attendants, who needed to keep a slim determine or danger getting fired.

Safety was nowhere close to nearly as good as as we speak: in the US, for instance, there have been 5,196 complete accidents in 1965 in comparison with 1,220 in 2019, and the fatality fee was 6.15 per 100,000 flight hours in comparison with 1.9, in accordance with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Hijackings had been widespread: there have been over 50 in 1969 alone. Fares had been additionally a lot increased. According to Simons, a transatlantic flight ticket in the early Sixties would value round $600, which is about $5,800 in as we speak’s cash.

Nevertheless, nostalgia for the interval abounds, and Pan Am particularly continues to be remembered fondly as the pinnacle of the air journey expertise.

The airline folded in 1991, when the golden age was lengthy lifeless after deregulation had paved the manner for a much less glamorous, however extra accessible business aviation beginning in the Nineteen Eighties.

It survives by means of organizations that unite ex workers of the firm, resembling World Wings, a philanthropic affiliation of former Pan Am flight attendants, which each Smith and Policastro belong to.

“Pan Am was a big cut above the rest. We always had very classy uniforms. They did not try to present us as sexual objects. And the work was pretty hard, but we were treated like royalty,” says Smith.

“We had a wonderful time on every layover. We had so many adventures.”

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