There’s a lot of talk about the nostalgia of the “Golden Age of Travel”, glorified by shows like Pan Am where we see passengers sipping on whiskeys and Martinis as they jetted across the Atlantic, reclined in large recliner seats, dressed impeccably.
The warm fuzzy memory of the JetSet era – with the likes of the Piano lounge on the 747 and lobster thermidor on silver platters – might seem somewhat removed from the perceived pedestrian passenger experience today, but TheDesignAir actually feels that we are seeing the true Golden Era of airline travel right now.
While passengers at the rear of the plane might disagree, the fact that passengers can now travel to the other side of the world for the cost of a few weeks wages should remember that back in the 1930’s the same trip would have cost the equivalent of two years wages. So next time we pick our economy seat based on price, we need to remember that the cost directly reflects the real-estate on the aircraft we will be taking up. 10 abreast in 777s is an economical way of keeping our ticket prices low.
That substantial outlay 80 years ago wouldn’t have got you any more creature comforts – in fact, nowadays, passengers can enjoy inflight entertainment such as Emirates 2500 different on demand options, compared to just a distribution of local newspapers. The original Kangaroo route from Qantas didn’t have flight attendants. Any catering was supplied by the co-pilot in a 10-seater De Havilland 86 aircraft.
If that doesn’t sound so bad, imagine the trip between the UK and Australia taking 12 days, with over 30 stops. In comparison today, passengers can travel with ease, with most airlines now offering seamless connections through their hubs, offering one-stop trips almost anywhere across the globe. Today saw the arrival of Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Auckland, currently the longest non-stop flight in the world.
While the 50’s and 60’s are more reflective of the best era to fly, with the introduction of jet aircraft connecting major city pairs. Comfort in the front of the plane was nowhere near the levels of comfort that most international carriers now offer. If you think the dining was better back then, Singapore Airlines still offers Lobster Thermidor in business class and multiple airlines offer Krug, Dom Perignon and Laurent Perrier even in business class.
As for comfort, almost every major carrier now offers fully flat beds, private suites, butlers, mammoth TV screens, luxury brand amenity kits, pyjamas and even showers. Etihad’s A380 The Residence is unparalleled currently compared to space, service and amenities.
As for the images we’ve all seen from the 60’s of passengers enjoying the 747 upper deck in a more relaxed ‘Piano lounge’, the concept of an onboard relaxation space hasn’t died. Although Virgin Atlantic had an onboard bar long before Emirates A380 version became so successful, other carriers have also followed suit including Korean, Etihad and Qatar Airways.
As for the ground experience, carriers like Lufthansa and Air France can drive First Class passengers directly to the plane and arrivals lounges are available in most international airports. Pre-flight, airport lounges have never been so expansive, well-stocked and luxurious, and consumers can be chauffeured straight from their front door to the airport as part of our ticket.
Cathay Pacific are doing a fantastic job of bringing that emotional connection to the JetSet era, with timeless design touches, warm tactile finishes and a hint of “Mad Men” 60’s style.
In summary, compared to the lengthy flights, cramped cabins and limited recliner seats, today’s aviation world offers passenger comfort that never has been seen before. With design companies and airlines working hard to continue to improve the passenger experience while keeping LOPA and material weight to a minimum we can also presume to see this enhanced passenger product flying for years to come with limited fare increases to compensate for the continued improvements. Long live today’s JetSet era.