Have five minutes for some time travel?

The Good Old Days?

Lufthansa Inflight Service in the 1950’s, via Aircraft Interiors International‘s YouTube Channel.

Far be it from me to knock a good thing, but this video of 1950’s service on a Lufthansa flight doesn’t fill me with longing for a lost era of glamour.

I’m all in favour of comfortable seating, excellent service, and a nice meal on board (and Lufthansa still provides loads of that), but this video actually makes me think of everything that was wrong about the early days of aviation.

It’s not just that the charming couple light up their cigarettes, or that there are no overhead bins to protect the passengers from items tumbling down upon them during turbulence (admittedly all they show up there are pillows and blankets), or that those inflight beds don’t seem very secure and I don’t think anyone fastened a seatbelt around that sleeping little girl.

It’s all of that, and more.

A lot has changed in the sixty plus years since this video was made and thank goodness.

Sure, we’ve lost a couple of things, but we’ve gained a lot.

The safety of aircraft travel, for one, has improved significantly since this time.  Just ask the seating manufacturers who have to meet stringent 16G testing requirements, and the many additional certification requirements introduced and improved-upon during the decades which have elapsed between the filming of this video and today.

Beyond the issuing of inflight magazines and newspapers shown at the beginning of this quaint flight, and the company of their freakishly happy fellow travellers, what do these passengers have to entertain themselves?

It’s possible that there was an inflight movie, but it was not featured here.  Inflight Entertainment as we know it today didn’t start until 1988 when Airvision introduced the world’s first in-seat video system, using 2.7-inch LCDdisplays, on a Northwest B747.  (Source: Crosswind on airliners.net)

This L.A. Times Article from 1991 by John Medaris about Airvision also reminds me of the not-so-long-ago good old days.  Expectations were set at a very low bar compared to what we’ve actually accomplished, and we’re just getting started.

Inflight meals have kept up with the times, with airlines vying to recruit world-class chefs to plan their menus.

But to me, the most important difference is the democratisation of air travel.  It is no longer an exclusive privilege of the rich.

Many more people can afford to fly today, and the growth of travel markets is largely due to the affordability of flights.

Passengers may fly with fewer frills, but they also fly for far less than they ever could.  This is true not only of Low-Cost Carriers, but throughout our industry.

For those who want something special, and are willing to pay for it, there are many great new programs being introduced to provide a luxurious experience at 30,000 feet.  There are too many, in fact, for me to list them on this brief post, but you can follow my RebelMouse feed for anything and everything I find which proves that the aviation industry continues to innovate and improve.

Come back to the future–that is today.

From the trends I see as I follow the industry in all areas of design and development, the passenger experience is bound to get better.  Even the most frugal of Low Cost Carriers are taking strides to improve service.

I say, you can keep your 1950’s flight.  It’s the 2050 flight that I’m looking forward to.  (Yes, I intend to be around for that.  A girl can dream.)

How about you?  Do you miss the good old days, or are you looking forward to tomorrow?

WARNING:  Shameless plugs follow!  (Sensitive readers may want to look away.)


Have your say on how aviation could continue to improve by completing the quick ten questions of the Flight Chic Inflight Passenger Experience Survey.


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(Featured image of happy Lufthansa Flight attendant via Bibafly’s delightful vintage travel Pinterest board.)

Marisa Garcia

After working for sixteen years in aviation, specializing in aircraft interiors design and aviation safety equipment, and getting hands-on with aircraft cabins in hangars around the world, Marisa Garcia turned her expertise into industry insight. She has been reporting on aviation matters since 2014. Every day, she's putting words to work.

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