Air travel has certainly changed dramatically over the years, and it’s not as exciting as the vintage photos we see from the 50s and 60s. Today, air travel is pretty much like riding a Greyhound bus (with smaller seats) unless you’re fortunate enough to be flying in first class. One thing we have to keep in mind while we’re looking at air-travel photos of the past is the people who were traveling back then were wealthier than most travelers today. Tickets for economy seats weren’t even a thing yet, so travelers had no choice but to pay top dollar for their airline tickets. In that era, travelers expected first-class treatment, and boy did they get it! Flight attendants and sometimes chefs served delicious six-course meals with appetizers of caviar or shrimp cocktail on fine china with metal cutlery- a far cry from the tiny bags of miniature pretzels and Cokes poured into flimsy plastic cups handed out by flight attendants today.
Flight attendants looked like movie stars. The criteria from a flight attendant manual read that they were to be between the ages of 21 and 26 with a height of 5’2″ to 5’6″ and their weight was 105-125, “properly proportioned and not to exceed 125 during employment,” and they had to be single and “keep high moral standards.” Flight attendants were required to wear high heels and mini-skirts as part of their uniform and had to look picture perfect at all times.
During the golden age of commercial flight, passengers almost always dressed in their finest clothing; women wore dresses with heels while men sported three-piece suits with silk ties. Today, people wear basically anything they want, such as tracksuits, jeans, torn t-shirts, and flip flops. Oh, and those roomy, comfortable seats on flights allowed passengers to stretch their legs, lie back, and take a cozy nap in their seats, which converted into beds, unlike the smaller seats in the economy section many passengers barely fit in today. Passengers were also able to relax in lounge chairs situated in different parts of the plane. The amount of personal space a person gets in the economy section today seems to be shrinking as the years go by. One can barely move elbows in an economy seat. A remedy is a coveted spot on the aisle or even a window seat, but it comes with a price as does everything on a flight these days.
Long ago, airlines didn’t charge customers for bringing their luggage, and people were able to pack as much as they wanted -they could even bring as many toiletries as their hearts desired. No one ever had to worry about not having a space for their belongings as we do today. Now, it’s literally a race to get your bag in the overhead compartment above your seat. Airline companies have managed to squeeze people into smaller spaces and charge customers for bags, seat choices, and even for priority boarding, and they will continue to find more ways to squeeze every penny out of customers. It almost seems like a joke, but there is actually a new airline in the works that will have passengers standing during the entire flight so they can fit more people onboard - stacking them like sardines.
The Skyrider 2.0 is a new frontier of low-cost travel which will offer stand up only seats. So while it’s very nice that airlines have made it possible for the poor and middle class to fly, it would be wonderful to be able to sit (not stand) comfortably without being charged for it.