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  • The 1950s and '60s are often regarded

  • as the golden age of airlines, offering luxurious seating,

  • fancy meals, and beaming flight attendants.

  • But while it was certainly roomier than today's

  • modern sardine can technique of travel,

  • there was also a fair share of less desirable details

  • unseen in the black and white evidence left behind.

  • So what was it really like to fly during the Elvis era?

  • Let's take a trip through the many ups and downs of getting

  • around in the olden days.

  • Hope you like cigarettes, lots and lots of cigarettes.

  • It's about to get Mad Men cloudy up in these skies.

  • Before we depart, please make sure you fasten your seatbelts,

  • and subscribe to the Weird History Channel.

  • For all the complaints of modern air travel,

  • there is no denying that it's significantly more affordable

  • than it has ever been to fly.

  • This is mostly thanks to a push for deregulation

  • starting in the 1970s, a decision that

  • led to competing prices and the number of air passengers

  • to subsequently triple in the 40 years to follow.

  • Flash back to the golden age, and it

  • wasn't uncommon to pay five times as much as you would

  • today, creating a business solely accommodating

  • the wealthy.

  • According to one TWA brochure from 1955,

  • a round-trip ticket from Chicago to Phoenix

  • went for a deceptive total of $138.

  • When accounted for inflation, that amount

  • translates to roughly $1,200 in modern dough,

  • and that's not even a cross-country trip.

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  • It's hard to imagine wearing a tight-fitting Sunday's finest

  • to spend hours sitting elbow to elbow

  • with a congested stranger, but this was exactly the case back

  • in the days of Don Draper.

  • Due to the high cost of travel, many people

  • would save up in order to fly, making the ordeal

  • way more of an anticipated event than a vacation hindrance.

  • Acceptable attire was more commonly

  • three-piece suits for men and dresses and jewelry for women.

  • As flights became more common and prices went down,

  • the formality slowly waned until the 1980s,

  • when travelers began dressing for comfort

  • rather than appearance.

  • Nice sweatpants, Chachi.

  • Despite the deregulation of airline to the 1970s,

  • one area the government got more involved in

  • was airport security.

  • Of course, anyone who has recently

  • taken the shoeless walk through the TSA

  • is more than aware of that.

  • Before the days of metal detectors and body scans

  • and pat-downs, airports were more like bus stations

  • than the checkpoint-laden terminals of today.

  • Not only could passengers arrive as late as 20 minutes

  • before their flight, but be joined by friends and family

  • all the way to the gate.

  • No ID?

  • No problem.

  • Truly was the 1960s a golden age for convenience,

  • just as long as you don't mind getting your airplane hijacked

  • every now and then.

  • And when we say "now and then," we literally

  • mean dozens of times a year.

  • In fact, thanks to the lack of security, between the years

  • 1968 and 1972, there were 130 American airplane hijackings,

  • sometimes more than one on the same day.

  • Now that I think about it, maybe having

  • to throw away your mouthwash isn't such a bad thing

  • after all.

  • Forget those extra leg room fees.

  • Airlines in the 1950s actually went

  • the extra mile to ensure your stems

  • were given the five-star treatment.

  • What would be considered first class leg room today

  • was commonplace for the average traveler of yesterday.

  • Early flights had no distinction between business or economy

  • class seating, and when they did finally add a first class,

  • coach-going passengers were still given ample room

  • to wiggle their toes.

  • So if the so-called cheap seats had plenty of space,

  • what did the first class passengers get?

  • A hotel room with wings?

  • Depending on the airline, the better paying accommodations

  • had everything from dining tables

  • to bunk beds to full lounges.

  • Dangerous?

  • Probably.

  • Comfortable?

  • Definitely.

  • Believe it or not, in-flight smoking

  • only became banned in the US as late as the 2000s.

  • Before then, passengers were allowed

  • to light up on certain flights longer than a few hours.

  • In the '50s and '60s, however, smoking

  • was non-stop and downright common.

  • In fact, the only place you couldn't smoke

  • was in the airport terminal, as companies

  • feared that a flame might ignite nearby fumes.

  • Along with allowing cigarettes, airlines often

  • provided free alcohol to help passengers pass the time.

  • After all, these were the days before smartphones and Wi-Fi.

  • Besides getting hammered, airlines

  • would entertain passengers with postcards

  • they were encouraged to fill out for loved ones,

  • because there's no better time to write home than when you're

  • drunk in a turbulent tin can.

  • Unless you're willing to pay extra,

  • most modern air travelers can hope for a few bags of chips

  • and a plastic cup of Coke.

  • Back in the golden age, economy passengers

  • were fed fare comparable to an upscale restaurant.

  • The menu often included lobster, roast beef, or prime rib served

  • with champagne or brandy.

  • Meals were served over multiple courses on real china

  • and glassware.

  • While this sounds like an endless luxury that trumps even

  • the nicest first class seats, the entire ordeal

  • was primarily used to distract passengers

  • from the less modern fallbacks of '50s flying,

  • because with all these bells and whistles,

  • the golden age of getting around was downright torturous.

  • We've talked a lot about the many extinct comforts

  • of '50s air travel, but have you wondered

  • why the airlines felt such a need for luxury

  • in the first place?

  • It wasn't just the high prices that

  • drove this golden age of comfort,

  • but rather the need to compensate for the subpar

  • technology of the times.

  • For starters, until the '60s, passenger planes

  • were propeller models like the Lockheed Constellation

  • and Douglas DC 7.

  • Along with being unpressurized, low flying,

  • and bumpy, these type of planes were extremely loud.

  • We don't see air sickness as much nowadays,

  • but back when planes couldn't navigate

  • over or around bad weather, vomit bags

  • were a regular necessity, not to mention that these smaller

  • planes often required passengers to take

  • four or five separate flights to travel longer distances.

  • With such small planes and clunkier engines,

  • walking the aisles was like a deadly game of American Ninja

  • Warrior.

  • The combination of turbulence and relaxed safety

  • meant that the many comforting decorations, real cutlery,

  • and lounge seating became a very uncomfortable obstacle course.

  • This only got worse with the introduction of first class,

  • as the partitions used to section of the plane

  • were often made from extremely shatterable glass.

  • One surprise bump, and a trip to the bathroom

  • became an impromptu stunt spectacular.

  • Combine all this with the fact that you were over

  • four times more likely to die on a flight in 1952 than today,

  • and it's no wonder that airlines were

  • so dedicated to making their customers happy

  • or, should we say, less miserable.

  • It's no secret that the job of air hostesses

  • was exclusive to women well into the modern times,

  • and it takes little imagination to picture the stress

  • level of a job requiring you to serve drunk,

  • stressed out travelers while donning mini skirts

  • and pillbox hats.

  • But there's even more to this occupational nightmare

  • than what you think.

  • Along with the desired uniforms often involving

  • skirts that increasingly grew shorter as the '60s progressed,

  • the job of a flight attendant was heavily

  • dictated by the rules of the airlines.

  • Along with dress codes, stewardesses

  • were often given a limit on how much they could weigh

  • and how they were to behave.

  • They were required to be single and outgoing,

  • while also maintaining a personal moral standard

  • decided by each airline.

  • It wasn't abnormal for a flight attendants job

  • interview to even require that she hike up her skirt in order

  • to prove her legs were nice enough for the uniform.

  • Airports didn't always have the complicated baggage handling

  • system we take for granted today,

  • and so back before the invention of the carousel, all luggage

  • traveled to and from the plane by hand.

  • That meant each passenger would need

  • to visit a specific counter after their flight,

  • present a porter with a ticket, and then sit and wait

  • for each of their bags to be retrieved.

  • The only silver lining--

  • there were no limits on how many bags you could bring,

  • as luggage fees wouldn't be invented until the 1990s.

  • So there you have it.

  • The golden age of luxurious air travel was far from golden.

  • So would you like to be an airline passenger in the '50s

  • and '60s?

  • Let us know in the comments below, and check out

  • some of these other videos of our weird history.

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What It Was Like During The Golden Age Of Flying

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/23
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