Vintage travel ads show artistry and wanderlust combined

Head back to the days when travel ads were works of art and the feeling of wanderlust can take over. There’s something about a harbor scene rendered in watercolors that evoke the feeling of romance and adventure. That was my first thought when I browsed through the “Destinations” section of the blog Creative Cloud’s bounty of vintage travel print ads.

The post includes 45 ads in all that have been divided into categories ranging from ads for airlines to ads for travel accessories. The ads also highlight how attitudes about travel have changed, as well as, the changes in what certain products once promised. One ad for Coppertone suntan lotion found under Travel Essentials, for example, touts that using the product can give you “younger skin tomorrow.” Haaa! It’s been awhile since that’s been part of public thinking.

The ads for airlines pay tribute to some that no longer exist like
TWA and Pan Am.

Whether you’re after a trip down memory lane or want to look at the artistry of when advertising once paid for artists to conceptualize an ad’s message, take time to browse. You may find yourself hunting down a vintage leather, hard-shell suitcase and a cream-colored linen suit for your next trip.

Thanks Gadling reader Andy for sending this visual treasure trove our way.

Galley Gossip: Boeing Boeing grounded

January 4, 2009 was a very sad day on Broadway in New York City. While it is said that all good things must come to an end, does that really have to include the critically acclaimed Broadway show, Boeing Boeing? I mean this was one trip I didn’t want to end. Ever! But when the doors finally closed and the lights went to black, I was there (along with a full house) to say Buh-bye to an era of glamour and excitement so many people love to recall.

In the comedy, which is based on the movie of the same name (staring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis), an American architect living in Paris is juggling three flight attendants – I mean air hostesses – all of whom are his fiancee. How can one man juggle three different women? Easy. You make sure each woman is a stewardess from a different airline – Lufthansa, Alitalia, and TWA. Then you consult a timetable as if it were a bible, marking down each woman’s scheduled layover. Of course to make it run smoothly you must employ an overworked and disgruntled housekeeper who acts more like an air traffic controller. But when an old school chum comes into town things are turned upside down. As most of you know, schedules change and flights get delayed, resulting in turbulent chaos. That’s where the fun began.

While the simple set never changed, the talented cast took the audience on a fun filled ride. In fact, it was so much fun that I was barely conscious of the guy rustling a paper bag full of who knows what in my ear, or that my knees were practically under my chin, and that I could barely move my feet because the seating was so tight – much like a cramped middle seat in coach. Not to mention I purchased the cheap tickets that put me near the ceiling of the intimate, but ornate, Longacre theater, a beautiful theater that was built in 1913.


The talented cast gave an excellent performance. I wonder if they could imagine the impact they had on the audience that night, the night they took their very last bow. As I looked around at all the people standing and clapping enthusiastically, I couldn’t help but wonder how many actually had a connection to a particular airline. Or were they aviation enthusiasts? Or were they just there to see a good show? Probably all of the above. And like that the show was over, the lights went to bright, and we all slowly filed out of the building, Playbill in hand, and onto the cold dark streets of New York.

“Boeing Boeing is done? Over? NOOOO! ” wrote our own Gadling writer, and pilot, Kent Wien when I mentioned I had seen the very last show. “I didn’t get a chance to see it! Is it going to pop up anywhere else?”

Pop up again, it will. Boeing Boeing will be back, touring in the fall of 2009.

Galley Gossip: Where did the service go?

Recently I read an interesting article in the New York Times, Up, Up, and Go Away, about an ex flight attendant who worked for TWA in the 1970’s when flight attendants were known as stewardesses and stewardesses were as glamorous as movie stars and passengers were treated like royalty and flying was..well…just better – in every way possible! The stewardess featured in the article above wrote about a recent flight she took from Miami to Charlotte and the lack of customer service onboard the airplane, on the ground, as well as the downfall of flying in general.

She wrote…

I have experienced the decline of service along with the rest of the flying public. But I believe I have felt it more acutely because I remember the days when to fly was to soar. The airlines, and their employees, took pride in how their passengers were treated. A friend who flew for Pan Am and I have a friendly rivalry over which airline was better. Friendly, yes. But we each believe we worked for the best.

Well that’s funny because I think I work for the best airline, and that’s an airline that’s still in business. And for the record, I, too, take pride in my job, as well as the way I treat my passengers, and this is during a time when passengers bash airlines for sport. Hey, times have changed. Flight attendants have changed. Passengers have changed. Technology has changed. Every single thing has changed. Has it not?

She wrote…

Airlines offer valid excuses for cutting back service. But what are they gaining when passengers leave a flight disgruntled, mistreated and hungry? It is surprising how easy it is to please passengers. Cereal and lots of coffee in the morning can do wonders for someone who had to leave home at 4 a.m. Pretzels and peanuts handed out with drinks make a difference in an era of flight cancellations and long security lines.

Much like most memories, one tends to romanticize the past. I, too, worked when flight attendants handed out wings, playing cards and magazines, back when we had all the pillows and blankets a passenger could desire. I also served cereal as well as pretzels and three dinner choices – in coach – and trust me when I tell you just as many passengers complained about the service then as they do now.

“This is nothing but garbage!” one passenger shouted at me when I placed the penne pasta on the tray table in front of her. This happened in coach over ten years ago.

“Is this all you have?” is another response I heard often back in the day.

I also remember that airfares were three times what they are today, which enabled an airline to offer you three choices of garbage…I mean food…as well as amenities in coach. Sure ticket prices have gone up, but by comparison they’re cheaper than they were ten years ago. In 1995 I bought a ticket from New York to Dallas for $800. Last month I bought the same ticket for $350 – and that was for a flight during the holiday rush, which is the second busiest time of the year to travel!

She wrote…

What works best of all, of course, is a smile. I trained for six weeks to become a flight attendant. Although the main focus was safety, I spent almost as much time learning good service. Airline employees’ frustration and exasperation are all too evident to their passengers.

Yet as I stand at the door and greet my passengers with a smile on my face and a friendly “Hello, how are you?” half the time my greeting is either met with a sour face and goes unanswered or I’m told exactly how they are, which is never good. After four of five snide remarks I eventually stop asking how people are, I’m too afraid! Keep in mind, it’s not easy for me, either, but I still try to smile, even though I’ve been working just under the FAA legal limit. My layover is not the same layover experienced thirty years ago by stewardesses in the past who had 48 hours of free time before having to work one trip home. Based on my schedule of the last six years, I average 8 hours between the time I say “Buh-bye” and the time I say “Welcome aboard” and push back from the gate again.

She wrote…

Once, stuck on a tarmac in Newark for four hours, a planeload of passengers got McDonald’s hamburgers and fries courtesy of the airline.

Not only do passengers have to bring their own McDonald’s food onboard these days, I have to make sure that the passenger who keeps getting up and down and going into the lav with a cell phone in one hand and a crumpled McDonald’s bag in the other isn’t up to any funny business. While I, too, trained for seven weeks to become a flight attendant, learning good customer service skills, I was also sent back to training in 2001 to learn what to do in case of a terrorist hijacking. That’s why I might not be smiling as I serve drinks down the aisle in coach. I’ve got my eye on that passenger whose been acting a little strangely. A stewardess never had to carry hand cuffs, etc, in their tote bags, but a flight attendant does.

The decline in service is a direct result of ticket prices today, which is why our flights are always full, staffed with minimum crew, and why people who couldn’t afford to fly thirty years ago are flying today? And that, I think, is a good thing, in a way. The airlines are giving passengers what they truly want – affordable prices. Not embossed napkins. People are no longer willing to pay for service, and the airlines can’t afford to give it away for free, not anymore, not in this day and age. Which is why all you get on a flight is a cramped seat, a can of soda, and a paper napkin – in coach – while getting from point A to point B as safely as possible and for as cheaply as possible. If better service is desired, you have the option to pay for it by purchasing a ticket in one of the premium cabins. It’s up to you.

When I first started flying fourteen years ago, passengers in the premium cabins enjoyed the fine dining experience we provided, which is still pretty much the same service we provide in 2008. Only now, unlike then, the seats in first class and business class are always full. There are more top tiered frequent fliers battling it out for those oh so precious upgrades than ever before. A premium class passenger spends about $6,000 to fly from coast to coast, which in todays weak economy is hard for an executive to justify in an expense report to management, which explains why luxury airlines like EOS and MaxJet went out of business in less than one year.

And with all the electronic devices brought onboard today, passengers in our premium cabins don’t really want the long drawn out service of yesterday, no matter what they say, because when they want to eat, they want it now, and they want it fast, and when they’re done, they’re done!

“Take it away!” I often hear, and before the meal tray is even lifted from the table the computer is out and the fingers are typing.

What bothers me the most about these types of articles, and there are many, is the way in which people still want to compare flying back then to now. Can you really compare the two? No other industry in the United States is criticized as harshly, with such backwards thinking, as the aviation industry. When you talk about those glorious days when all the stewardesses were young and beautiful and wore hot pants and mini skirts and smiled as they lit your cigarette in the piano lounge onboard the 747 to Paris, keep in mind that flight attendants weren’t allowed to get married or have children and were subjected to periodical weigh-ins before their trips. Sounds good you say? Well don’t forget that with all the glamour came a lot of empty seats. Back then only the privileged could fly. So just remember that the next time you purchase a ticket and want to reminisce about the good old days.

Photos courtesy of (vintage black and white) Carbonated, (Passengers) Heather Poole, (Computer) Heather Poole

Air travel observations of a former flight attendant

“A gate agent stood on the counter and shouted: ‘Don’t ask us for help! We cannot help you!'” is one of the lines in Ann Hood’s recent and enlightening Op-Ed piece “Up, Up and Go Away” in the New York Times. Hood, now a novelist–her latest novel is Knitting Circle, was a flight attendant back in the day where there were meal choices and the idea that flying was special.

Hood’s essay of comparing and contrasting air travel then and now was prompted by a recent trip she took to Rhode Island where the plane didn’t get her there. It wasn’t exactly the airlines’ fault that she and a few other passengers rented a van in Charlotte, N.C. after they arrived at the airport from Miami for a connecting flight. Upon arrival at the Charlotte airport, they found out there wasn’t going to be a plane to Rhode Island for quite some time. Bad weather had created the snafu. People were facing days of waiting.

Along with looking back on how flying used to be in the good old days, Hood makes an interesting connection between the state of air travel then and now. In the 1970s, when she worked for TWA., there was a fuel crisis and flight attendants had mandatory unpaid furloughs. From what she writes, it seems as though courtesy towards passengers never wavered despite the economy.

From what I gather, Hood thinks that airlines are creating problems by not ensuring that passengers are treated well. In her mind, what good is it if passengers get off of an airplane feeling disgruntled? I have to say that I’ve generally been lucky when it comes to courtesy, although I did have Hood’s experience where the ticket counter folks were nonchalant in their treatment of stranded passengers. I haven’t flown that airlines since then.

There’s nothing worse when travel is not going well when the people who are supposed to help things run smoothly say, “We cannot help.”

At that point I wonder, who will? In Hood’s case, when you’re stranded at an airport, you help yourself.

(The photo by gas_station_sushi is of a TWA airplane in the 1960s.)