Monday, August 30, 2010

Collect the Friendly Skies

Oh, the luxury of sky travel.  The in-flight meals, the free TV, the pampering, the leg room....

Okay, I've never experienced this kind of air travel.  My first flight was to Rochester, NY when I was 18 - my best friend Jacq and I went to visit her sister, who was a grad student at the Eastman School of Music.  My ticket was $181 - and that was 23 years ago.

Let's think about this for a minute!  Is it any wonder that there are no perks left on flights, considering that Web sites like and Expedia will help you find tickets that cost about the same as my flight did - in 1987?  I can't believe people complain about ticket prices.  Adjusting for inflation and fuel prices a ticket to Rochester, NY (from Chicago) should cost $347.36, according to this inflation calculator (I just now checked Expedia and discovered that I can get a round-trip, non-stop flight from Chicago to Rochester for $250!).  We forget sometimes how great we really have it here in the States.

You've heard the 50s and 60s referred to as the "Golden Age of Air Travel" before - and yes, that's probably right.  Back then, flying was a HUGE deal!  You were either rich or a businessman if you hopped a flight.  And the airlines certainly did cater to men - there's a reason the "sexy stu" stereotype existed.  These young women had to be at or below a certain weight, had to be attractive, wear skimpy (but tasteful!) outfits, and were there to serve with a smile.  They were also booted out of the industry when they got old, married or pregnant.  That would tarnish the notion that you actually had a shot with these ladies!

No doubt about it, air travel was more glamorous back then.  You did actually get full meals, gratis, and not just in First Class (but remember that your ticket was far more expensive, relatively speaking!).  You were treated like a guest, and not a nuisance. And because the passengers weren't packed in like cattle, they were probably less likely to be rude and/or filled with rage.  And remember - these were the days before security checks.  If you're interested in the way things used to be there's a great book called, "Airline: Identity, Design and Culture" by Keith Lovegrove (teNeues, 2000).  It's a little sad that this was probably one of the last books written about the industry before 9/11.

I love airports and traveling by air!  I travel this way rarely enough that it's still a thrill.  I hope I always feel this way, rather than entitled somehow.  And because I love air travel, I love collecting vintage air travel ephemera (see the above photo).  And of course, that vintage ephemera always finds a way into my artwork as well. 

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