No one will deny airline travel has changed a lot over the years. From commanding respect and a debonair sense of authority, to a comic and ego-crushing experience you just crave the end of.
Needless to say a trip on an airplane isn’t what it used to be, and nowhere is that more apparent than in its advertisements.
Build Your Trip
Get instant pricing and complimentary advice
To make you pine for the past all the more, I’ve gathered together some of the more interesting and beautiful ads from one of the great eras of flight – the 1950s.
So, grab your leather suitcase, tilt your pillbox hat, polish up your pearly cuff links and prepare for a nostalgic trip across the years.
* * *
*All images are credited and linked to x-ray delta one except where otherwise noted.
The first Concorde started test flights in 1969. Regular service did not start until 1976. This shot portrays Concorde travel in all its abstract and swan-like beauty.
It used to be special just to make it across the Pacific. In doing so you received a certificate just by sitting in the plane. An International Date Line Airline Certificate, circa 1951
Sabena Airlines was Belgium’s national carrier for nearly 80 years before finally going bankrupt in 2001. Not an advertisement for paint, a dream for the adventure set! Circa 1958.
Love the image of planes filling the skies like warriors of the future. Circa 1954.
This series of Saturday Evening Post ads proudly announced TWA’s dominance of the round the world travel route. One of the first airlines to transverse the world’s many exotic destinations at a time when international tourism was purely for diplomats and the super rich; its quaint beginnings.
1947 – Cairo
1953 – Rome
1948 – India
An Air France ad, circa 1954. It’s unclear whether the $50 is a one-way or round-trip flight but you can’t deny the unintentionally smutty and insanely-cheap method of getting to the capital.
The following images are via the Duke University digital collection.
SAS getting all ‘Viking’ on the polar route from the west coast to Europe. Ad circa 1954 from the New Yorker Magazine.
Capitol Airlines took a sexier take on their airline ads. Established from the shell of Pennsylvania Airlines in1941, Capitol Airlines dissolved into United Airlines in 1961. Their Time Magazine ad of 1954 was hot as a red swimsuit by a poolful of men.
…and heavy on the double-entendres
Northwest Airlines used to have dominance over the coveted “northwest passage” to the Orient. In 2011 Northwest Airlines will end with a whimper when it merges into Delta, quite nullifying its once powerful Pacific image.
A New Yorker 1953 promo for Girard Perregaux, the “official watch” of Northwest Airlines.
Circa 1953, Saturday Evening Post
Businessmen were the primary passengers on trans-Atlantic flights. Saturday Evening Post 1953.
The New Yorker ad for Lockheed Aircraft Corp, circa 1949. Rio always was a street party in the making.
Rare prewar ad for Pan Am. Time Magazine 1941 Flying Clipper.
Otherwise known as Panagra, Pan American-Grace Airways was a joint venture between Pan Am and Grace Shipping Company. Newsweek Magazine, circa 1940
A borderline totally inappropriate Czech Airlines ad, circa 1950s
Finally two ads for the exotic destinations served by Air France in the mid to late 50s. By the artist Bernard Villemot, 1959.
Credit: nelson ebelt