Nostalgia 101 – Airline Ads of the 50s

super-skyliners by x-ray delta one.

Aviation as glamour. Imagine!

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.

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.

Concorde brochure c. 1976 by x-ray delta one.

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


Imaging getting a lavish buffet, over a cold ham sandwich, a Coke and a tab for $12 as your dessert.TWA-food by x-ray delta one.


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.

1958 ... Sabena by x-ray delta one.


Love the image of planes filling the skies like warriors of the future. Circa 1954.

1954- sky full of planes [1] by x-ray delta one.


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

1947... Connie and fez by x-ray delta one.

1953 – Rome

so-smooth-so-fast by x-ray delta one.

1948 – India

by x-ray delta one.


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.

Sleep Your Way To Paris


SAS getting all ‘Viking’ on the polar route from the west coast to Europe. Ad circa 1954 from the New Yorker Magazine.

SAS inaugurates First New Route to Europe in a thousand years!


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.

Time Is A Girl's Best Friend


…and heavy on the double-entendres

"We'll Be There... He Came By Air"


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.

America's newest vacationland... be there tomorrow!


A New Yorker 1953 promo for Girard Perregaux, the “official watch” of Northwest Airlines.

27 bright spots for our 20th birthday

Circa 1953, Saturday Evening Post

Fifth Avenue to Fujiyama

Businessmen were the primary passengers on trans-Atlantic flights. Saturday Evening Post 1953.

SAS makes business a pleasure in Europe


The New Yorker ad for Lockheed Aircraft Corp, circa 1949. Rio always was a street party in the making.

The Leader to RIO--the Leader at Home--Lockheed Constellation

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

It's Springtime in Chile, South America

A borderline totally inappropriate Czech Airlines ad, circa 1950s

czechstew by x-ray delta one.

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



Build your Trip

Get instant pricing and complimentary advice
Get Started »