Air travel now is nothing like it was almost 50 years ago—with more space, classier interiors and bolder designs—the 1970s was the Golden Age of air travel, especially in a Boeing 747.
Aside from more leg room, yes more space for your body to relax, 747s in the 1970s also had piano bars, large lounges in the upper deck, fresh flower arrangements with meals, and full-on restaurants.
Here’s what the interior of Boeing 747s looked like on a variety of airlines like Pan Am, TWA, American, Delta, Braniff, and United (among others).
Upper Deck Restaurant
Pan Am and Qantas airlines were one of the two airlines that set up their upper decks in restaurant-style seating arrangements, where four passengers could be sat at each table to enjoy a meal together. And, you didn’t have to eat off plastic trays and containers because your meals were served on real plates, and your drink came in a glass.
And before airline deregulations in 1974, “there used to be 20 different meals served: a seafood platter, Hindu vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian.” You had so many choices and most airlines had their own catering service.
American Airlines was one carrier that had a piano bar located in the back of the main deck, behind the coach seats. And these piano bars were open for everyone to enjoy—it was the place to relax, sing, dance and sip on a refreshing cocktail.
Aside from the piano bar, the lounges on the Boeing 747s in the 70s were quite a place to hang out, chit chat and party (if that’s what you were looking to do). Here are some groovy lunges that look like they could belong in a hotel. Lounges were reserved for first class and business class passengers, which is why there was such a huge focus on design and space there, rather than in the business or first class seats.
(Video source: Winkgo / YouTube)
First, Business and Economy Class
The hype was in the lounges for passengers in business and first class, but for those who didn’t want to hang out in the communal area, here’s what their business and first class seat often looked like.
Passengers sitting an economy also had it pretty good. They enjoyed up to 35 inches of space of legroom and 18 inches of seat room for themselves (today, economy only offers about 31 inches of legroom and 16.5 inches of seat room). Here’s what you could expect in economy class on a Boeing 747. If you traveled as a family of four, you could get seats that came with a table in between; it was somewhat more of a conference setting, but at least everyone could keep an eye out for each other.
Traveling in a Boeing 747 in the 1970s doesn’t compare to that of today’s airlines. Back then it felt more like a place for people gather, with meals that were more edible (especially for those who sat in economy). From piano bars to classy lounges, flying in the 70s was an experience on its own. However, the majority of Americans couldn’t afford a ticket in those days so only the privileged folk could get a taste of flying like this back in the day.
Looking back, would you want to fly like this?