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  • The Golden Age of Travel

    What was it like to fly in the 1950s? People have often described their experiences as expensive, dangerous, boring, smoky, drunk and racist. 

    The 1950’s – often described as the “Golden Age of Flying” was exclusive and extremely glamourous, there was Pan Am in the 1950s and the ultimate Concorde in the late 1960s. There were many real luxuries, including ample leg room for all passengers’, lie-flat seats and complimentary services. Meals consisted of dishes such as lobster, roast beef and prime rib with alcohol served in fancy glass ware. There were no security checks or long line ups. With the introduction of the jumbo jet, on Feb. 9, 1969, the first Boeing 747 ever built completed its first flight. Called the City of Everett, it took off from a brand-new runway at Boeing’s specially built 747 factory in Everett, Washington. https://www.cnet.com/pictures/a-747-story-the-history-of-the-jumbo-jet bringing with it cheaper air travel

    21st Century -Today when you book your travel ticket, airlines recommend that you be at the airport at least three hours early for an international flight compared to thirty minutes in the golden era, there are potentially long lineups and security checks as well as additional fees for carryon baggage and seat assignments. Seats are no longer classed as spacious and very much a distinction between classes. Business class today, is spatially very similar to what economy used to be like and free meals very much a rarity.

    The 1950’s- air travel was not cheap, you were lucky if it did not cost you a month’s salary to travel a short distance. A flight from Chicago to Phoenix could cost $138 round-trip — that’s $1,168 when adjusted for today’s inflation. A one-way to Rome would set you back more than $3,000 in today’s dollars. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/air-travel-1950s_n_5461411

    21st Century – Today, Air travel has evolved from the privilege of a few into a service for many. It is relatively cheap and many more people fly today. According to ICAO’s preliminary compilation of annual global statistics, the total number of passengers carried on scheduled services rose to 4.5 billion in 2019 https://www.icao.int/annual-report-2019/Pages/the-world-of-air-transport-in-2019. 

    The 1950’s – air travel was more dangerous with less sophisticated cockpit technology, mid air collisions, engine failures and even engines dropping out of planes on a regular basis. Plane interiors were not always designed with “safety in mind” with sharp and jagged edges and glass dividers, a trip to the bathroom was rather risky. Turbulence could snap your neck. Weather also played a role as fog was the cause of many crashes.

    21st Century – Research saysthat flying is the safest mode of transportation when compared to the number of fatal accidents attributed to automobiles, trains and boats. On an average day (2018 stats) 3,287 people across the world perish in car accidents, over the year that figure increases to 1.3 million approximately and does not include serious and life changing injuries.

    The 1950’s -Back in the 1950’s there was really no distractions to keep you occupied on a flight. In the 1950s and 60s, in-flight entertainment (IFE) as we know it today, was in its infancy and rudimentary. Although the first film was shown on an aircraft in 1921 it wasn’t until the 1960s that IFE became mainstream and popular. In 1961, David Flexer of Inflight Motion Pictures developed the 16mm film system for commercial aircraft.  (In FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT 1950S STYLE by Geoffrey Thomas & Christine Forbes Smith, archive vaults- of AirlineRatings.com). To pass away the time people would read, play draughts or chess or even play cards.

    21st Century – today we are able to watch in flight movies, take our hi-tech gadgets on board, or listen to music. There are private touchscreen TVs to USB chargers in every seat, imagine what it would be like today being stuck on a flight with none of that!

    The 1950’s– alcohol was served and as much as you could drink, smoking was allowed too and encouraged on flights once the plane was air bound, as there were concerns of fuel igniting when on the ground. 

    21st Century – airlines may take different stances on alcohol availability, from an outright ban to free drinks, some may impose charges, in business and first-class drinks are included with the price of your ticket. Smoking is prohibited by almost all airlines. And the bans on inflight smoking have been imposed in a piece-meal manner around the world beginning in the 1980s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflight_smoking, 

    The 1950’s- also known as the racist age when it came to air travel, as the main travelers tended to be white. Income also played a huge factor. Fast Company reports that most accounts of the golden age of air travel gloss over this dark secret. In the 1950s and 1960s, only white people really flew, and the racism of the era was reflected at 30,000 feet. “In 1950, the median income for an African-American male was just $1,471 per year,” Fast Company explains. “The average white male was paid nearly twice as much, and since air travel was such a luxury, few minorities could afford it.”But even if you could afford a plane ticket as a minority, the airline likely wouldn’t have allowed you on the same plane as white passengers. Some airlines would train their phone operators to try to identify the voices of African-Americans, so that they could put black passengers on specific flights. (JOHN BROWNLEE9 MINUTE READ) https://www.fastcompany.com/3022215/what-it-was-really-like-to-fly-during-the-golden-age-of-travel 

    21st Century “It wasn’t until the late 1960s and 1970s that things started changing with air travel discrimination. Today air travel is for all and airlines are prohibited from subjecting a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.