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Flying In Style! Vintage Photos From Aviation’s Golden Age

Photo Credit: Fox photos / Stringer / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Fox photos / Stringer / Getty Images

When we think of flying today, we often think of cramped spaces, crying children, and long security lines. However, this wasn’t always the experience. During the golden age of flying, airplanes were a luxurious experience for passengers, offering comfortable sleeping options, delicious meals, and lots of space to stretch your legs. We have found some vintage photos of airplanes from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s that make us wish we could experience flying in style like this!

The Sleeping Situation

Overnight intercontinental service
Example of an overnight intercontinental service available on a Boeing Stratocruiser. Photo is undated. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

During the 1950s, some airplanes offered sleeping accommodations for intercontinental flights. Different types of planes, including Boeing Stratocruisers (pictured above), Lockheed Constellations, and Douglas DC-6s offered luxurious sleeping options for their passengers.

Crossing the Atlantic on Board Pan American Airways
Two women getting breakfast in bed on board a Clipper of Pan American Airways during a crossing of the Atlantic, around the 1950s. (Photo Credit: Keystone-France/ Getty Images)

Sleeping on planes was much more comfortable back then than it is today. Passenger planes in the 1950s often offered upper and lower berths with mattresses and sheets, Pullman-style curtains for privacy, windows, reading lights, and sometimes even breakfast in bed (as pictured above). Not all passenger planes offered this type of sleeping accommodation, as seen below. Even so, these passengers still receive a bigger blanket than we do on flights today.

Passengers asleep in the air
Passengers asleep during a flight, circa 1950s. (Photo Credit: Raymond Kleboe/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

Good airplane food?

BEA Vickers Viking passenger plane
Passengers onboard a BEA Vickers Viking passenger plane being served lunch, circa 1958. (Photo Credit: Fox Photos/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

Today, airplane food isn’t always the most appetizing, but that hasn’t always been the case. As planes grew in size, so did the amenities associated with them- including the food served to passengers. By the 1950s and 1960s, the inflight food offered to passengers was really quite swanky.

First class passengers on a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet
First class passengers are served lunch onboard a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, circa 1970. (Photo Credit: Fox Photos/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

As aircraft became larger in the 1950s and 1960s, there was more storage space, meaning that serving styles became more elaborate. Airline crews would roll covered trolleys stacked with fresh salad down the aisles, while charcuterie and different meats would be cut in the middle of the aisle for passengers to see. Lobster was a featured food on many flights.

Flight attendant serving alcohol
Pan American flight attendant filling up a glass of champagne, circa 1970. (Photo Credit: Tim Graham/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

Oh, and did we mention that alcohol was free on airplanes during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s? In fact, American Airlines removed 60 seats from its Luxury Fleet of 747 jets in order to build a lounge large enough to fit both a piano and a bar that served complimentary cocktails.

First class upper deck lounge on a Boeing 747
First class upper deck lounge on a Boeing 474, circa 1971. (Photo Credit: SDASM Archives via Flickr)

Much more room than today

Man and young boy aboard Boeing Stratocruiser
Man and a young boy in a restroom aboard a Boeing Stratocruiser. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

Planes in the 1950s and 1960s were much roomier than airplanes today. Between 1947 and 1950, Boeing produced 56 Stratocruisers, which had the capacity for 100 passengers. The Stratocruiser was spacious and luxurious, and offered travelers a much different experience when washing up than we have today.

Bob Fliegel, who rode on a Stratocruiser as a child, recalls the “ladies’ powder room having the elegance of the Waldorf, with fluorescent lighting, gold mirrors, and plenty of space for primping. Even the men’s room had ample room for shaving.”

Observation area on a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser
An air hostess serves passengers in the observation area of a Transocean Airline Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, circa mid 1950s. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

The Stratocruiser also featured an observation area (pictured above), available for passengers who bought more expensive seats.

Inside a Boeing 747
A hostess greeting a passenger in front of a spiral staircase leading to the upper deck lounge of a Boeing 747, circa 1970. (Photo Credit: Fox Photos/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

By the 1970s, Boeing had introduced its 747 passenger plane, which featured a luxurious upper deck for first-class passengers. The first 747’s upper deck was used exclusively as a lounge area with three windows on either side. Pictured above is the spiral staircase on a Boeing 747 which leads up to its upper deck.

first class passengers on a jumbo jet
First-class passengers on a jumbo jet, circa 1960. (Photo Credit: Marka/ Getty Images)

More from us: Concorde: How Supersonic Travel Was Grounded For Good

As you can see in the above photo, first-class passengers had more than enough room to stretch out and socialize. Quite a far cry from what we can expect today!

Madeline Hiltz

Madeline Hiltz is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News