What a ‘golden age’ of flying

Editor – Ticket Monthly is a CNN travel magazine that explores some of the most exciting topics in the travel world. In August, we’re going back in time to revisit some of the best retro travel experiences.

(CNN) — Cocktail lounges, five-course meals, caviar served from ice sculptures and flowing champagne: life on planes was very different in the “golden age of travel,” the time from the 1950s to the 1970s it was remembered for its beauty. and beauty.

It was the dawn of the jet age, ushered in by aircraft such as the de Havilland Comet, the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8, used in the 1950s for the first scheduled transatlantic services. before the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747, was introduced in 1970. So what was it like to live there?

“Air travel was very special at the time,” says Graham M. Simons, a journalist and author. “It’s beautiful. It’s smooth, it’s fast.

“People are dressed for it. The staff is really wearing haute couture clothes. And there’s more space: a seat – that’s the distance between the seats on the plane – is 36 to 40 maybe 28 inches, as they increase the number of people on board.”

I’m golden

The first class passenger seat was carved on a BOAC VC10 in 1964.

The first class passenger seat was carved on a BOAC VC10 in 1964.

Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet/Keith Lovegrove

With the number of passengers only a fraction of their days and fares becoming more expensive for anyone but the wealthy, airlines are not worried about adding more seats, but rather many benefits.

“Airlines are marketing their trips as a form of transportation, because in the 1950s, they were against cruise ships,” Simons said.

“So there are rest areas, and the possibility of four, five, six courses.

“Some of the American airlines have video displays under the runway, to help passengers pass the time.

The likes of Christian Dior, Chanel and Pierre Balmain work with Air France, Olympic Airways and Singapore Airlines to design corporate apparel.

Becoming a flight attendant — or a stewardess, as they were called until the 1970s — is a dream job.

“Airline passengers are like rock stars as they walk through the center, carrying their bags, almost in slow motion,” said the designer and author of the book. Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet, Keith Lovegrove.” beautiful or beautiful.”

Most of the passengers tried to follow.

Relaxation style

Pan American World Airways is perhaps the airline most associated with the 'Golden Age'.

Pan American World Airways is perhaps the airline most associated with the ‘Golden Age’.

Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“It was like going to a cocktail party. We had a shirt and a tie and a jacket, which is ridiculous now, but it was meant to be,” added Lovegrove, who who started flying in the 1960s as a child with his family, often at first. class seats as his father worked in the airline industry.

“When we fly on a jumbo jet, the first thing my brother and I do is go up the spiral staircase to the upper deck, and sit in the lounge.”

“This is the generation where you can smoke on board and you get free alcohol.

“I don’t want to get anyone into trouble, but when we were young we were given a shot of sherry before our dinner, then champagne and maybe a digestive afterwards, whatever all under the drinking age.

“It’s an amazing feeling of freedom, even though you’ve been stuck in this fuselage for a few hours.”

According to Lovegrove, this kind of relaxation is about safety.

“It’s very small,” he said. “We flew to the Middle East from the UK with a budgerigar, a pet bird, which my mother carried in a shoe box as hand luggage.

“He punched two holes in the top, so the little bird could breathe. When our three-course meal was brought out, he took the decorated lettuce from the dining table and placed it on top of the pits. smart, I don’t think you can escape today.”

‘Bad work’

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

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

Tim Graham/Getty Images

The airline most often associated with the golden age of travel is Pan Am, the pioneer of the Boeing 707 and 747 and the industry leader in transoceanic routes at the time.

“My job with Pan Am has been a journey since the day I started,” said Joan Policastro, a former flight attendant who worked with the airline from 1968 until its breakup in 1991.

“There is no comparison between flying for Pan Am and any other airline. They all look up.

“The food was amazing and the service was impeccable. We had ice swans on the first floor that we served caviar from, and Maxim’s of Paris. [a renowned French restaurant] preserve our food.

Policastro remembers that passengers would go to a restroom in front of the front deck “to sit and talk” after the ceremony.

“Many times, we were there together, talking to our passengers. worked as a flight attendant with Delta before retiring in 2019.

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

Beautiful world

Passengers are served a cup aboard a Lockheed Super Constellation while flying with the first American airline Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1955.

Passengers are served a cup aboard a Lockheed Super Constellation while flying with the first American airline Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1955.

Mondadori via Getty Images

The lounge on the Boeing 747 was eventually replaced by a dining room.

“We set up tables with desks. It was amazing,” Smith said. “People couldn’t stay there for takeoff and landing, but they came up to eat.

First class service befitting a restaurant.

“We started with canapés, then we came out with a cart with appetizers, which included beluga caviar and foie gras,” he explained. “After that, we got a truck with a big salad bowl and we assembled ourselves before serving.

“Then there’s always some kind of dish, like chateaubriand or lamb or roast beef, and it comes on the plane and we cook it in the car.

“We put it on another truck and we drove it down the road. But apart from that we got about five other meals, a car and fruit, and a car food. And we serve Crystal champagne or Dom Perignon.”

Things are not so good in the economy.

“The food comes on the plane in aluminum trays and we cook and finish everything,” Smith said. “There are lots of bars and they come with real glasses.

“If we skip breakfast, they put raw eggs and we have to break them into a silver terrine and beat them, melt butter, and cook with sausage or It’s something else we’ve got.”

On top of being dressed to the nines, passengers don’t have any luggage.

“When I first started, there were no such things as wheels on the bag,” Smith said. “We always looked at them, and then we took a bag on board.

“There’s not even a box on it. The only things you put in there are shirts and hats.

Not very good. Smoking was allowed on board, filling the cabins to the dismay of the flight attendants; it was banned starting in the 1980s.

Fondly remembered

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

A first-class ‘Slumberette’ on the Lockheed Constellation, early 1950s.

Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet/Keith Lovegrove

Many airlines have strict requirements for hiring flight attendants, who must maintain a low profile or be fired.

Safety is not as good as it is today: in the US, for example, there were 5,196 accidents in 1965 compared to 1,220 in 2019, and the fatality rate was 6.15 per 100,000 hours jump compared to 1.9, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. .

Robberies were common: more than 50 in 1969 alone. Prices are higher. According to Simons, a transatlantic flight cost $600 in the 1960s, which is about $5,800 in today’s money.

Still, there’s a lot of nostalgia for the era, and Pan Am is widely remembered as the pinnacle of air travel experience.

The airline took off in 1991, when the golden age died after deregulation opened the way for a small, but more affordable business airline that started in the 1980s.

It survives through organizations that include former employees of the company, such as World Wings, a philanthropic group of former Pan Am flight attendants, owned by Smith and Policastro.

“Pan Am has a bigger cut than anyone else. We have the most beautiful clothes. They don’t try to present us as women.

“We have a good time every session. We travel a lot.”

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