What 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 spots some of the most fascinating subjects in the journey world. In August, we’re going again in time to revisit some of the biggest retro journey experiences.

(CNN) — Cocktail lounges, 5 course meals, caviar served from ice sculptures and an infinite circulate of champagne: life on board airplanes was fairly totally different throughout the “golden age of journey,” the interval from the Fifties to the 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 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 truly like to be there?

“Air journey at the moment was one thing particular,” says Graham M. Simons, an aviation historian and writer. “It was luxurious. It was clean. It was quick.

“People dressed up as a result of of it. The employees was actually carrying high fashion uniforms. And there was way more house: seat pitch — that is the distance between the seats on the plane — was most likely 36 to 40 inches. Now it is down to twenty-eight, as they cram increasingly folks on board.”

Golden period

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

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 only a fraction of what they’re at present and fares too costly for anybody however the rich, airways weren’t apprehensive about putting in extra seats, however extra facilities.

“The airways had been advertising and marketing their flights as luxurious means of transport, as a result of in the early Fifties they had been up towards the cruise liners,” provides 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 first-class cabins.

“Some of the American airways had vogue exhibits down the aisle, to assist the passengers go the time. At one stage, there was speak of placing child grand pianos on the plane to supply leisure.”

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 referred to as till the Seventies — was a dream job.

“Flight crews seemed like rock stars once they walked by the terminal, carrying their luggage, virtually in sluggish movement,” says designer and writer of the e-book “Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet, Keith Lovegrove.” They had been very fashionable, and all people was both good-looking or stunning.”

Most passengers tried to observe go well with.

Relaxed angle

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

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

Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“It was like going to a cocktail get together. We had a shirt and tie and a jacket, which sounds ridiculous now, however was anticipated then,” provides Lovegrove, who started flying in the Sixties as a toddler together with his household, usually getting first-class seats as his father labored in the airline trade.

“When we flew on the jumbo jet, the very first thing my brother and I’d do was go up the spiral staircase to the high 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 do not need to put anybody in hassle, however at a younger age we had been served a schooner of sherry earlier than our supper, then champagne after which perhaps a digestive afterwards, all under ingesting age.

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

According to Lovegrove, this relaxed angle additionally prolonged to safety.

“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 chook, which my mom took on board in a shoebox as hand baggage.

“She punched two holes in the high, so the little chook might breathe. When we had been introduced our three-course meal, she took the lettuce garnish off the prawn cocktail and laid it over the holes. The chook sucked it in. Security- clever, I do not suppose you possibly can get away with that at present.”

‘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 first-class 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 trade chief on transoceanic routes at the time.

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

“There was no comparability between flying for Pan Am and some other airline. They all seemed as much as it.

“The meals was spectacular and repair was impeccable. We had ice swans in first-class that we would 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 first-class “to sit down and chat” after the meal service.

“Quite a bit of instances, that is the place we sat too, chatting with our passengers. Today, passengers do not even take note of who’s on the airplane, however again then, it was a way more social and well mannered expertise,” 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 the former American airline Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1955.

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

Mondadori by way of Getty Images

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

“We set the tables with tablecloths. It was fairly fabulous,” says Smith. “People couldn’t sit up there for takeoff and touchdown, however went as much as have dinner. After some time, they did away with the eating room too, they usually put first-class seats up there.”

The first-class service was worthy of a restaurant.

“We began with canapés, then we got here out with a cart with appetizers, which included beluga caviar and foie gras,” she explains. “After that we had a cart with a big salad bowl and we blended it ourselves earlier than serving it.

Then there was all the time some form 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 one other cart and we carved it in the aisle. But along with that we had at the least 5 different 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 got here on the aircraft in aluminum pans and we’d prepare dinner it and dish all of it up,” Smith says. “The trays had been massive and got here with actual glasses.

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

On high of dressing to the nines, passengers additionally did not have a lot carry-on baggage.

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

“There had been no overhead bins both. The solely issues you possibly can put up there have been coats and hats. People solely introduced on one piece of baggage, that may match below the seat.”

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

Safety was nowhere close to nearly as good as at present: in the US, for instance, there have been 5,196 complete accidents in 1965 in comparison with 1,220 in 2019, and the fatality charge was 6.15 per 100,000 hours in comparison with 1.9, in response to 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 price round $600, which is about $5,800 in at present’s cash.

improvement, nostalgia for the interval abounds, and Pan Am specifically remains 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 means for a much less glamorous, however extra accessible business aviation beginning in the Eighties.

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

“Pan Am was a giant lower above the relaxation. We all the time had very stylish uniforms. They didn’t attempt to current us as sexual objects. And the work was fairly exhausting, however we had been handled like royalty,” says Smith.

“We had a beautiful time on each layover. We had so many adventures.”


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