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The Way it Wasn't

April 20, 2010 5:52:42.452

You can read plenty of missives about how air travel was once an awesome experience - like many things, it looks like the passage of time has softened the (very) rough edges:

I have a copy of TWA's flight schedule from June 1, 1959. The first jets were being introduced into the fleet, but the vast majority of flights were still on propeller-driven aircraft. There's an ad in the timetable for TWA's low coast-to-coast "excursion fares." Los Angeles to New York was only $168.40 roundtrip, if you traveled Monday through Thursday in Sky Club Coach class. That bargain is roughly equivalent to $1,225 today, before tax.

These fares weren't valid on the fastest aircraft, so you had only two options, neither of which went nonstop. There was the 10:10 a.m. departure from Los Angeles that arrived in New York at 11:41 p.m. that night or the 7:55 p.m. departure that arrived at 10:56 a.m. the next day -- more than 12 hours in the air. This was on a Lockheed Constellation, which, while beautiful, bounced you around in the weather at about 20,000 feet, far below the 35,000 to 40,000 feet you'd cruise at today. Even when the weather was good, that trademark prop vibration left you feeling like you were sitting on a washing machine for hours after you landed.

Sure you say, but at least it was elegant? Well, maybe in first class (and the article doesn't give a price for that). However, back in coach? Just like coach now, you had to bring a box lunch yourself. And bear in mind that a transcontinental flight now, even with one stop, is less than half that time - and you're likely to have some entertainment options, even if it's just seatback power and your own gadgets :)

The "golden age of flying" wasn't quite so golden...

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posted by James Robertson


Re: The Way it Wasn't

[anonymous] April 20, 2010 10:06:00.477

It was golden compared to what preceded it I guess?

Re: The Way it Wasn't

[W^L+] April 20, 2010 14:43:29.247

I'm sure it wasn't glorious, but last time I flew to NJ, I departed CA around 10:30 AM (PacTime) and landed about 1:30 AM (EastTime) the next day.

I would drive to and from an assignment if my employer allowed it. The air travel experience is that unpleasant.

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