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15 Vintage Photos of Flight Attendants

Flying to Paradise
15 Vintage Photos of Flight Attendants
We sometimes fantasize about what it was like to fly in the mid-20th century. Back then, people dressed up for flights rather than reaching for yoga pants, there were no baggage fees, you didn’t have to remove your shoes for security, and you enjoyed a full meal (with drinks!) during the flight. There were, of course, not-so-great aspects to it too: Air travel was reserved for the wealthy because of the high costs, routes were limited, and smoking on board was allowed. 

The job of flight attendant, then referred to as “air hostess” or “stewardess,” was one of the few professions open to women in the 1930s. Soon, it became almost exclusively for women. Flight attendants were always stylish—some even wore designer uniforms. But the first flight attendants were hired for more than their looks: When commercial air travel began, airlines required stewardesses to be registered nurses. 

Here, we’ve rounded up 14 photos of the real stars of plane travel back in the day.
  • 1 / 16
    Flying to Paradise
    Flying to Paradise
    In 1943, Hawaiian Airlines hired its first flight attendants. In 1979, an all-female crew for the airline became the first to operate a certified scheduled U.S. air carrier.
    Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines
  • 2 / 16
    Preflight Picture
    Preflight Picture
    A group of flight attendants on a 1930 United Airlines flight posed for a photo in their airline-issued outerwear.
  • 3 / 16
    A Glamorous Profession
    A Glamorous Profession
    For flight attendants in the 1930s and 1940s, glamour and class were emphasized as some of the more important aspects of the job.
  • 4 / 16
    Mirror Check
    Mirror Check
    According to United Airlines in 1951, “stewardesses had many preflight responsibilities, including a grooming check to guard against such fashion faux pas as crooked stocking seams, runaway slips, and scuffed shoes.”
  • 5 / 16
    Dinner Is Served
    Dinner Is Served
    But flight attendants have long been responsible for maintaining a comfortable in-flight experience. Here, a flight attendant served dinner on a coast-to-coast flight from Washington to Los Angeles in 1941.
  • 6 / 16
    First-Class Service
    First-Class Service
    Flight attendants help make aircrafts feel like hospitable environments—which can be a difficult task. These National Airlines flight attendants took coats for first-class fliers on a 1972 flight. 


     

  • 7 / 16
    Holiday Travel
    Holiday Travel
    Flight attendants on Portugal’s TAP airline in the 1960s and 1970s served Thanksgiving dinner to travelers, fully equipped with paper turkey decorations. 


     

  • 8 / 16
    Smiles All Around
    Smiles All Around
    A flight attendant keeps a group of travelers happy on this 1950 United Airlines flight.
  • 9 / 16
    Say Cheese
    Say Cheese
    During the Golden Age of flying, flight attendants had many of the same responsibilities as they do today—but they also had some serious style. 

     

  • 10 / 16
    Nurse or Flight Attendant?
    Nurse or Flight Attendant?
    At first, flight attendants in 1930 wore nurses’ uniforms and hats during flights.
  • 11 / 16
    Seeing Double
    Seeing Double
    Later, flight attendant uniforms came in many different styles. These TWA flight attendants in 1952 look nearly identical as they marched back to the airport after touching down on the runway. 



  • 12 / 16
    Strike a Pose
    Strike a Pose
    These 1968 United Airlines flight attendants didn’t take their preflight photo op too seriously, ditching their heels for this snapshot. 


     

  • 13 / 16
    Pretty in Pink
    Pretty in Pink
    By 1971, Braniff Airways flight attendants wore designer Pucci uniforms.
  • 14 / 16
    Full ’70s Color
    Full ’70s Color
    The 1970s were in full swing on this Delta flight where flight attendants swapped skirts for bell bottoms and bright colors filled the cabin.
  • 15 / 16
    Air Travel Expands
    Air Travel Expands
    By the 1980s, air travel expanded to include more routes worldwide. Discriminatory restrictions on a flight attendant’s marital status were also elminated; prior to this, women were required to be bachelorettes and were fired if they married.
  • 15 / 15
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