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14 Vintage Photos of Flight Attendants

The Golden Days
14 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. However, most of the first flight attendants were hired for more than their looks though: When commercial air travel began, airlines required stewardesses to be registered nurses. The profession is more inclusive now, with a varitey of men and women hosting flights around the world.

Here, we’ve rounded up 14 photos of the real stars of plane travel back in the day.
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    The Golden Days
    The Golden Days
    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. However, most of the first flight attendants were hired for more than their looks: When commercial air travel began, airlines required stewardesses to be registered nurses. The profession is more inclusive now, with a variety of men and women hosting flights around the world.


    Here, we’ve rounded up 14 photos of the real stars of plane travel back in the day.

    Photo by manhhai/Flickr
  • 2 / 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.”

    Photo by SDASM Archives/Flickr
  • 3 / 16
    A Glamorous Profession
    A Glamorous Profession
    For United Airlines flight attendants in the 1930s and 1940s, glamor and class were emphasized as some of the more important aspects of the job. 

    Photo by SDASM Archives/Flickr
  • 4 / 16
    Dinner Is Served
    Dinner Is Served
    A flight attendant serves dinner on this coast-to-coast flight from Washington to Los Angeles in 1941. 

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
  • 5 / 16
    Pretty in Pink
    Pretty in Pink
    In 1971, the flight attendants on Braniff Airways flights wore designer Pucci uniforms. By this decade, age restrictions had be lifted and flight attendants were no longer fired once they reached the age of 35 (sometimes 32 years old, depending on the airline).

    Photo by clipperarctic/Flickr
  • 6 / 16
    Preflight Picture
    Preflight Picture
    Flight attendants on this 1930 United Airlines flight posed for a photo in their airline-issued outerwear. 

    Photo by SDASM Archives/Flickr
  • 7 / 16
    First-Class Service
    First-Class Service
    National Airlines flight attendants took coats for first-class fliers on this 1972 flight. 

    Photo by clipperarctic/Flickr

     

  • 8 / 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. 

    Photo by Punktoad/Flickr

     

  • 9 / 16
    Smiles All Around
    Smiles All Around
    What a happy and stylish group of travelers on this 1950 United Airlines flight. Before the 1960s, flight attendants were required to meet certain height and weight requirements.

    Photo by David Wilson/Flickr
  • 10 / 16
    Say Cheese
    Say Cheese
    Pan Am flight attendants on the runway in Saigon in 1960.  

    Photo by manhhai/Flickr

     

  • 11 / 16
    Seeing Double
    Seeing Double
    These TWA flight attendants in 1952 look nearly identical as they marched back to the airport after touching down. 


    Photo by SDASM Archives/Flickr
  • 12 / 16
    Nurse or Flight Attendant?
    Nurse or Flight Attendant?
    At first, flight attendants in 1930 wore nurses’ uniforms and hats during flights.

    Photo by SDASM Archives/Flickr
  • 13 / 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. 

    Photo by clipperarctic/Flickr
  • 14 / 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. 

    Photo by SDASM Archives/Flickr

     

  • 15 / 16
    Air Travel Expands
    Air Travel Expands
    By the 1980s, air travel expanded to include more routes like this flight to the Philippines. 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. 

    Photo by kanegen/Flickr
  • 16 / 16
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