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15 Vintage Photos of Flight Attendants

Preflight Picture
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
    Preflight Picture
    Preflight Picture
    Flight attendants on a 1930 United Airlines flight pose for a photo in their airline-issued outerwear. 
  • 2 / 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
  • 3 / 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.”
  • 4 / 16
    Dinner Is Served
    Dinner Is Served
    A flight attendant serves dinner on a coast-to-coast flight from Washington to Los Angeles in 1941. 
  • 5 / 16
    Pretty in Pink
    Pretty in Pink
    In 1971, the flight attendants on Braniff Airways flights wore designer Pucci uniforms. 
  • 6 / 16
    First-Class Service
    First-Class Service
    National Airlines flight attendants took coats for first-class fliers on this 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
    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.
  • 9 / 16
    Say Cheese
    Say Cheese
    Pan Am flight attendants on the runway in Saigon in 1960.  


     

  • 10 / 16
    Seeing Double
    Seeing Double
    These TWA flight attendants in 1952 look nearly identical as they marched back to the airport after touching down. 



  • 11 / 16
    Nurse or Flight Attendant?
    Nurse or Flight Attendant?
    At first, flight attendants in 1930 wore nurses’ uniforms and hats during flights.
  • 12 / 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
  • 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. 
  • 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. 


     

  • 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. 
  • 15 / 15
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