Lonely Planet Writer

Newly-discovered video shows the onboard comforts in the golden age of travel

A promotional video from the 1950s showing what commercial flying was like in the golden age of aviation has resurfaced 60 years after it was first released, giving an insight into the differences between travelling then and now.

The video, made by American airline Pan American World Airways in 1958, was released to show how luxurious flying had become since the introduction of commercial air travel. In it, passengers can be seen being treated to luxury meals in chairs with plenty of room to move around. They can also be seen playing board games and gathering around a small table, something which is unheard of on most commercial flights nowadays.

Passengers are seen relaxing on chairs and playing boardgames. Image by MediaDrumWorld.com

The narrator also boasts that there is “no feeling of movement at all, no vibration” from inside the plane during the flight, despite the fact the plane is travelling at approximately 650 miles-per-hour. Pan Am was founded in 1927 by Air Corps Majors Henry Arnold, Carl Spaatz, and John Jouett, and practically enjoyed a monopoly of the US’ commercial airline business until the break out of the Second World War.

The bathroom cubicles were a lot more roomy in the 1950s. Image by MediaDrumWorld.com

The rapid evolution of air travel during the Second World War meant that, come 1945, there was a rush to become the premium commercial airline service in the United States. Airlines began to buy up old military jets no longer needed by the air force, and throughout the 1950s the quality and speed of air travel both improved at a rapid pace.

Meals being served on board a transatlantic flight. Image by MediaDrumWorld.com

By the end of the 1950s and into the 1960s Pan Am was regarded as one of the, if not the, finest commercial airliner in the skies. Prices were still high for passengers at the time the video was made, meaning Pan Am could afford to offer top of the line customer service. They often hired college graduates to fill their flight attendant roles, with several being practised in the art of nursing as well.

“A new concept in air transportation. The travail has been taken out of air travel,” the narrator says in the video. “New York to London, in the same time as it takes you to go and see a baseball double header. New York to London in six-and-a-half magic hours. It all goes so fast now and it’s so comfortable, that you feel as if you haven’t travelled at all. Many hours gained, and no sleep lost.”

By Tom Dare/MediaDrumWorld