This Is What Flying Used To Look Like

Flying in the 1950s was an experience remarkably different to that of today. I’ll start with the advantages, well, the allowances that were part and parcel of a flight event six decades ago.
Worlds of Legroom
In the 1950s the average seat had approximately four to six more inches of legroom. Economy class was more spacious business class today, and seats in first class looked more like hotel rooms.

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Five-star cuisine
The food on the first commercial flights was incredible with each provider trying to out-do the other. Fresh fish, lobster, roast steak and real glassware and cutlery were commonplace even in economy class.

Image source: Twitter

Mid-flight cigarette? Sure
Tobacco smoking was completely acceptable during a 1950s flight. Lit cigarettes, cigars and even tobacco pipes were totally fine. The only curious exception was smoking in terminals. A belief exists that lit cigarettes in terminals could ignite the fumes of fuel onsite.
Surprisingly, it was only the late 1980s that the first laws prohibiting tobacco smoking on a limited range of domestic flights in the U.S were passed, and 2000 that any blanket prohibition existed.

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Whisky? and how about another whiskey?
Alcohol consumption on flights was heavy. Stewards would serve whisky after whisky. And flight goers even poured their own drinks from bottles supplied by the airline. It was common for at least some of the passengers to leave the flight completely plastered.
Unfortunately for the drinkers, free alcohol was one of the first additional services to go as more low fare carriers dominated the market.
Postcard? Pen?
In the 1950s the concept of flying was so novel that airlines staff gave away postcards to each boarding passenger. The bulk of flying time, for the passengers not totally hammered, was used describing their flying experience in words for people they knew on the ground on the back of their complimentary postcards.
Flight “hostesses”?
The job description and company rules related to flight attendants were also part of the extravagant and largely unnecessary show in the air. Stewards or flight attendants as the position is known today, were in the 1950s titled “hostesses”. Sex appeal was important. “Hostesses” had to be single, weight less than 125 pounds, wear a girdle and high heels shoes as part of flight company rules. Being chatty and even flirtatious was expected.

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The disadvantages or inconveniences of 1950s flying were not limited to sexist in-flight banter…
Prohibitive costs
Flying in the 1950s cost an arm and a leg. It was at least ten times as expensive in terms of a proportion of the average wage.
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Image source: Airline Ratings

Uncomfortable flying
Planes in the 1950s lacked modern technological advances. They relied on pistons instead of jet engines. The pressurization of air cabins were hit and miss. And flights were more turbulent, more affected by weather and getting across any type of real distance required up to a dozen stopovers.
Baggage claim was horrendous
There was no such thing as the baggage claim conveyor belts and display screens. In the 1950s, a passenger would have to negotiate with a bellboy who require a generous tip to recover and deliver bags, item by item.
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Image source: Getty Images

Lax security
In the 1950s no ID was required. Passengers could walk into planes on whimsical approval of ground staff and well-wishers could say goodbye right up to the aircrafts’ doors. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the first more thorough ID screening commenced in the U.S.

Image source: Huffington Post

Flying in the 1950s was a mixed bag, probably a blast, if you could afford it !

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