The Golden Age of Flying Wasn’t as Glamorous as You'd Think


Traveling can be really quite exhausting.

Just ask most frequent fliers you know and they will probably withdraw into a moody gaze and tell you that they’ve had quite enough (also likely listing their suffering skin that is slowly being drained out of its suppleness). Many argue that flying today, despite the addition of modern technology and various beauty products to combat the apparent damages of flying too much, is not a fantastic experience.

We perhaps think back to the supposed Golden Age of Flying and imagine that whilst it was five decades ago, the novelty and romanticism of an emerging era would also be a world away from cramped seats, overworked crowds and jaded sterwardesses.

But the Golden Age of Flying was probably just a glamorized misnomer, and we’ll tell you why:

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Elusively Expensive

As commercial aviation took flight, you’d expect fares to be sky high and true enough – it is. While traveling now appears commonplace, with the airport filled to the brim with passing travelers, you’ll likely fork out over 40% more than you’d expect to pay today. As aviation history expert and professor at Pennsylvania's Albright College, Guillaume de Syon said to Fastcodesign, “It was four to five times as expensive to fly in the Golden Age. If you were a secretary, it might cost you a month's salary to take even a short flight."

Definitely Dangerous

Five times the price of yesterday’s plane ticket also comes with five times the chance of dying on a flight back in the ‘50s, compared with today. Today’s turbulence, while terrifying to new fliers (with its suspicious jerks and lurches), is often only scary on the surface. Back then, however, a turbulence patch could break your neck. Also, de Syon adds that back in the Golden Age, there were way more flight accidents and plane crashes statistically. Even a trip to the bathroom could turn into a horror-fest – since safety was not quite the priority in aviation interior design, a careless trip could land you on the sharp edges of tables or chairs.

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Secondhand Smokiness

These days, you can’t smoke without being penalized, or even escorted off the flight. Back then, however, it was not just allowed, but a commonplace scenario to fly on a smoky cabin back in the ‘50s, where even pipes and cigars were not just allowed but encouraged. Also, free drinks were also in place back in the Golden Age, where having too many and ending up hammered wasn’t that frowned upon.

"Memoirs written during the Golden Age of Flying are filled with lively accounts of drunken passengers," explains de Syon, describing that people went easy on the scotch and got hammered to make the unbearably long flights pass more quickly.

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