7 Reasons Why Flying Was More Fun in “The Golden Age of Travel”

“The Golden Age of Travel” circa 1960s to the 1970s — time it was, and what a time. Flights were the pinnacle of luxury; stewardesses were the golden girls and airline companies were in cheeky competition with each other, giving us some of the most provocative ads in history. The came the 1980s, when flight rates saw a major drop in prices, so travel became more accessible to the masses — but the rich sure had a good run when the skies were the limit of luxury.

#1 Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous

The original ‘blonde bombshell’ Diana Dors, also known as the British Marilyn Monroe.

A single ticket cross country could cost a secretary her entire month’s salary. In today’s world, tickets are nearly half the prices they were back then, and because so, flights were marketed to money new and old; Wall Street tycoons and Hollywood stars. You didn’t board a flight to ‘find yourself’ or soul-search abroad, you bought an exclusive VIP pass into a party 35,000 feet up in the air.

#2 Things Were Easy Breezy

Hey kiddos, you’ll get to fly in the 80s!

And if you could afford it, you were seriously in for a treat. Airline security wasn’t properly imposed at the time, nor did pat-downs and scans. You could show up just half an hour before, and still make your flight. Because air fare was so expensive, flights were exclusive and there were more stewardesses than passengers. You didn’t need to push the call-a-flight-attendant button to (hopefully) flag one down. Also, a ton of legroom!

#3 Dressed in Sunday’s Best

The Golden Age of Air Travel (3)
Don’t you just love retro fashion?

No oversized sweatshirts, neck pillows, or anything that sacrificed style for comfort. Passengers came dressed to the nines because it was such a spectacle. The men looked dapper in polished suits, while the women threw on fur coats, with curls pinned to perfection and lips glaring in intense shades of red. And to think we slip on a pair of flip-flops for a layover these days…

#4 The “it” Girls of the Skies

Texan Stewardesses
Hot pants and leather boots were a requirement for the ladies of Southwest Airlines.

Ever wondered why a place in the cabin crew is so highly coveted and glamourised? Back then, the concept of co-ed “flight attendants” did not exist. Female stewardesses were one of the attraction’s of the airlines, and being one of them put you at status of a celebrity or a model. They had to be at least 5’2, weigh no more than 130 pounds, unmarried and have no children, and retire by age 32, a rule that was abolished in the 70s. By the 80s, the marriage restriction was gone as well.

#5 “Chicken or Fish?” How about Lobster?

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Lobster for free? Air New Zealand wins.

A first-class ticket came inclusive of a seven-course meal. On Pan Am, passengers were served the crème de la crème of Parisian food; fois gras and smoked salmon catered by the ever-popular Maxim’s — where it was hard to even get a table at on ground! And then came 1987, when American Airlines made a huge cost-cutting measure by removing one olive from each in-flight salad. Meal time just hasn’t been the same since.

#6 Smoke Got in Your Eyes

A pick-up line that stands the test of time: “Got a light?”

Smoking was once a norm on board — if you’ve ever questioned the need for announcing its prohibitance on a flight today. Lighting up cigarettes, pipes and cigars were allowed right up till the late 1980s (a true decade of damper in the lives of the rich nomads). The only place you couldn’t smoke at on the ground, in fear that smoking might ignite refueling fumes.

#7 Getting High in The Sky

Best make it a strong one.

Aviation wasn’t what it is today, and a flight from America to Asia could take almost 10 days. There’s only one way to pass the time when you’re in a metal tube in the sky for weeks end — you drink to keep yourself entertained. It wouldn’t work in the modern day long-haul flight, but with just a handful of passengers on board to attend to, a free flow of alcohol was the cherry on top of a Bourbon Old Fashioned.

Come fly, come fly away.

Photo credits: Main1, 2, 3, 4, 56 and 7.

Diandra Soliano

Our resident Wander Woman with a passion for languages, big cities and bronzer. When she's not listening to The Smiths a little too loudly at the office (after hours!), she can be found singing along to the soundtrack of Les Miserables with her two cats for an audience.

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