The Golden Age of travel consisted of piano bars, open lounges, large meals, plenty of legroom, brilliant service and an entire plane set up in a way that’s comfortable for everyone flying.

Nowadays, we’re stuck sitting in a seat for 3, 6 even 19 hours at a time in an airplane full of passengers. And unless we’re paying up several thousand for a first or business class ticket, we don’t get to lounge around, spread out or get the best service we deserve.

But as we mentioned earlier, that wasn’t always the case. Here’s a list of things travelers once were able to experience while flying, but won’t ever be able to today.


Smoking was extremely popular—everyone did it, all the time, whether they were up in the clouds or down on the ground. Smoking was permitted from the early ages of air travel up through the 1990s.

Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said that even when she was a passenger, “I remember getting off the airplane and feeling like I had to scrape off layers and layers of ick, with eyes stinging, throat hurting and all of the other symptoms of exposure to secondhand smoke”. It’s hard to sometimes imagine how smoking was even permitted or even tolerated for so many years!

Even though airplanes were sectioned off into two sides—smoking and non-smoking—the cigarette smoke spread and remained hanging in the air throughout the entire plane. We’re glad this is no longer an issue.

Free Food and Drinks

Unless you’re in first or business class, your in-flight meal will not be as good as it was 30 or 40 years ago. Back then, you ate like a king—from chicken, ham, turkey, beef, ox tongue and three rounds of cheese and biscuits. You arrived feeling fuller than ever before. In addition to the dining experience, drinks were handed out freely. Whatever you could drink, you drank before your meal, during and even after. And for some reason, there were never any issues of passengers being obnoxious or wanting to start a brawl if they had too much to drink. Most would just doze off and wake up when they landed at their destination.

Standards for Flight Attendants

In order to be a flight attendant, you had to meet specific requirements, such as being single, between the ages of 21 and 27, and with a “neatly proportioned figure” and “pleasing appearance”. Moreover, women could only be a flight attendant for a maximum of 10 years. Some airlines, for instance, Eastern Airlines, required that women be 20 years old, 5’2″ but no more than 5’9″, weigh 105 to 135 pounds in proportion to their height.

Appearances were paramount, and during training, they had a visit from Elizabeth Arden, who taught them how to apply makeup.”

Hang Out in the Cockpit

Oh yes, there was a time when you could pop in and say hello to the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit. But due to increased flight concerns over the past few decades, this type of bonus is no longer an option or possibility. Unless, of course, you know the pilot or the pilot ;).

Watch a Movie at the Same Time

There was a time, until recently, when we all used to watch the same movie on a large screen that came down from the ceiling. And if you wanted to listen to some tunes, you had to hook up the earphones the airline supplied to the side of your seat and choose from a selection of radio and music stations. Now, we’re spoiled with on-demand and personal entertainment screens that you can even play games on. Oh, how times have changed…

Hefty Ticket Prices

Nowadays we have low-cost airlines that can get you from point A to point B without putting much of a dent in your pocket—however, your comfort and service levels will also be quite low.

Looking back, you can expect to pay about 40% more in the 1950s than you would today. For instance, a flight from Phoenix to Chicago, round trip, would have cost you $138 in the 1950s. Today, that would amount to about $1,168. And you can imagine that the salary back then was nothing compared to how much many of us make today. 60 years ago, someone would have to save at least a month’s worth of their salary just to take a short flight within the U.S.

What are your favorite memories from the Golden Age of travel? Share and comment below!