January 18, 2017

What flying in the Sixties was really like

By Maximilian Wirth
While many people have the impression that the Sixties were the “golden age” of air travel, where everyone still got a first class treatment, the actual experience on the first flights was terrible:

Both the smokers' and non-smokers' cabins were filled with cigarette smog, so you would get off and all your clothes would smell like an ashtray.

It was also much scarier to fly. Planes had to gain as much altitude as quickly as possible, making them start almost like a rocket with terrible noise, vibrating your seat, and the smell of kerosene and tobacco everywhere.

And it was not just perceived to be scary, but it actually was 77 times more dangerous than nowadays to take an airplane. In 1972, one death occurred for every 139,486 fliers. Last year, it was only one per 10,769,230 travelers.

One could not even distract oneself with the entertainment system or the Wi-Fi offered on today’s flights. Even if they would show a movie, it was almost impossible to understand it over all the noise, so all you were left with was to look out of the window for the entire flight.

On top of that, this unpleasant experience was much more expensive than today, mostly because there was no competition to offer cheaper tickets. And it also took much longer as delays were still more frequent and even the check-in lines and customs were more time-consuming.