1970s air hostess

Air travel (and mini skirts).

It’s only one month until the launch of Tell Them to Get Lost, so I’ve decided to take a quick flight back to the 70s. When the Wheelers flew to South East Asia to research South east Asia on a Shoestring in 1974 they flew TAA and wore bell-bottom jeans and floral shirts. The non-hippies in the 1970s, however, would often dress up in their Sunday best for a flight – men wore suits with ties and women would don their best dresses (even kids wore suits!). Air travel was still a novelty back then and in 1974, only 207 million well-dressed folks took to the skies. That might sound like a lot, but compare that to today when more than 2.5 billion passengers jump on a plane each year. Back then, there was no point in shopping around for the best deal, either, because governments regulated airfares and all the prices were the same. If a return ticket between Sydney and Singapore was $327 on one airline, it was $327 on all the airlines.

Airlines needed a point of difference to attract customers, so stewardesses began wearing miniskirts and hotpants to appeal to the predominantly male business passenger. The airlines then tried to outdo each other by advertising the fact that they had ‘the sexiest stewardesses’ and looking something like this…

Airlines 1974

They even went as far as to design skirts that would ‘accidentally’ ride up when the stewardesses reached up (there must have been a lot of, ‘Excuse me, can you get my bag from the overhead locker?’). Although they wouldn’t need much riding up for a view when they dressed like this (catch our smile indeed)…

Airlines 1974

One airline, Braniff International Airways, went all out (so to speak), promoting an ‘Air Strip’ campaign. And yes, it was as bad as it sounds: stewardesses would change uniforms mid-flight. Although on some airlines the stewardesses were hardly dressed anyway (and those boots couldn’t have been too comfortable on a 10 hour shift)…

Airlines 1974

…or showed even more skin (and more of those uncomfortable boots – that style must have been popular!)

Airlines 1974

Another way for airlines to distinguish themselves from the competition was the food and service. I found a menu from a 1974 first-class flight with Swiss Air, and on the menu was real turtle soup, imported Malossol caviar with melba toast, slices of foie gras de Strasbourg with pumpernickel, fresh cold lobster bellevue and roast pheasant en cocotte with Mascotte potatoes and leaf spinach salad. Passengers often adjourned to separate dining rooms, with accompanying piano bar, and tables were set with crisp linens and fine silverware (back when we could be trusted with cutlery). A First class ‘bar’ looked like this…

Airlines 1974

This was the ‘Polynesian Pub’ on a Continental Airlines 747. Airline executives would look at a photo like that today and say,’ We could get 87 economy seats in that space.’ Ah, to fly in the 70s – Polynesian Pubs, mini skirts, mid-riff revealing tops and Harvey Wallbangers and devilled sausages all round.

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