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What your day would be like on a flight during the golden age of aviation

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Imagine traveling back in time to when flying was all about luxury and style, from the 1950s to the 1970s. During this period, known as the golden age of flying, every flight felt like a grand adventure.

Boarding a plane meant stepping into a world where everything was classy and elegant, from the spacious seats to the stylish uniforms of the flight attendants.

Photo Credit: 1950sUnlimited / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Flying during the golden age was a real treat. Aviation historian Graham M. Simons recalls, “Air travel at that time was something special. It was luxurious. It was smooth. And it was fast.” Passengers enjoyed lots of space in their seats, and the crew looked like they had just stepped out of a fashion magazine. People dressed up for flights because flying was such a special occasion.

Unlike today, where we can search for the best flight deals, flying in the golden age was expensive and options were limited. For example, a round-trip ticket from Chicago to Phoenix in 1955 cost $138, which would be about $1,200 in today’s money. Aviation expert Guillaume de Syon explains that flying was four to five times more expensive than it is now, making it accessible only to the wealthiest individuals.

Photo Credit: Keith Lovegrove

Airlines went all out to impress passengers with delicious food and top-notch service. “The airlines were marketing their flights as luxurious means of transport,” says Simons. They served fancy meals with caviar and foie gras, and some flights even had fashion shows on board. Former flight attendant Suzy Smith remembers serving canapés, appetizers with beluga caviar, and foie gras to passengers.

Flying was more relaxed and less strict back then. Keith Lovegrove, who loves old-fashioned flying, remembers how easygoing it was. “It was like going to a cocktail party,” he says. People dressed in shirts, ties, and jackets, and they could bring all sorts of things on board, even pet birds in shoeboxes! Security was less strict, and passengers had a greater sense of freedom and fun.

Photo Credit: Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

One airline that stood out during this time was Pan Am. Joan Policastro, a former Pan Am flight attendant, says working for Pan Am was like an adventure. “My job with Pan Am was an adventure from the very day I started,” she recalls. Pan Am was known for serving fancy food and having cool lounges where passengers could relax. It was the ultimate in luxury travel.

Flight attendants in the golden age had to meet strict appearance and behavior standards. They wore high heels, white gloves, and even corsets. Airlines had specific requirements for their hair length and weight. Female flight attendants had to be single, sociable, and maintain “high moral standards.” By the 1960s, their uniforms became more revealing to cater to the mainly male passengers. These strict rules show how much importance was placed on their appearance.

Photo Credit: Mondadori via Getty Images

Even though times have changed, many people look back on the golden age of flying with fondness. Groups like World Wings, made up of former Pan Am employees, keep the memories alive. “Pan Am was a big cut above the rest,” says Suzy Smith. During those days, flying was a real adventure, and passengers felt like royalty in the sky.

The golden age of flying may be over, but the memories of luxurious and fun air travel live on. It was a time when flying was all about elegance and excitement. Even though air travel is different now, we can still look back and remember the magic of those good old days.