It is fairly common to see frequent flyers on aviation forums reminisce about the past with their rose coloured glasses on. Apparently flying was much better back in the 1960s and 1970s and it is terrible today.

According to people’s memories, the food was better, the flight attendants were prettier and the whole experience was just that much more fantastic. Is that really the case?

Past Seating

Apparently the seating was much more spacious in economy class too – you could stretch out and really relax and enjoy your flight. I happened upon a couple of pictures from back in the day and I beg to differ.

Above are the economy class seats on a Pan Am Boeing 707 which were taken in 1979. Apart from the fact the seats are thicker, everything looks suspiciously familiar.

Leg room on an Embraer 190 – a regional jet – looks very similar to that on the 707. In fact, it looks like it may be even a little more generous.

More Seating Examples

Just to really reinforce the fact, here are some more pictures. Below are the seats on an Aer Lingus Airbus A320 and those on an Aer Arann ATR turboprop. Once again they look just as roomy as the international economy class on Pan Am.

Okay, so perhaps the Pan Am example from the past was not the best one. How about we take a look at another airline, say Dan Air London from the 1980s. The picture on the left is their Comet 4 seating.

Now that is exceptionally tight, actually worse than I have ever seen on a flight today. By comparison, the right picture is the business class seating on a BMI Airbus A320. Sure, it’s the same pitch as economy class but it’s better than that on Dan Air.

What About The Rest?

I will agree that the lower level of security in the past would have made for a nicer airport experience. Being able to walk straight onto a flight just like a train would be pretty great.

On the other hand, flying was far more expensive in the past. Nowadays anyone can fly somewhere if they want to, and this is one of the factors that will eventually bring the human race together. Experiencing other cultures really opens the mind.

When it comes to food though, people always seem to mention the fact they received steak dinners in economy class and how great this was. While that may be true, wasn’t the running comment back in the day the fact that airline food was terrible? Airline food today is actually pretty decent.

Aircraft are also far quieter than before, both for the passengers inside and those outside. As much as I would love to fly on a late 1930s era flying boat, I daresay it would be very noisy inside and not particularly comfortable.

Overall Thoughts

As far as I am concerned, flying today is the best it has ever been. The latest aircraft such as the Airbus A350, Boeing 787 and the Airbus A320 NEO are very quiet inside, which makes for a relaxing experience.

Food on board is generally quite good, and entertainment is easily the best it has ever been. On demand movies and television is essential on a long haul flight. Cabin crew are also just as well trained as in the past. Seating is clearly on par or better than before too, despite what you might think.

While there are security issues which we all have to live with, I would argue we are actually living the golden age of flight right now. What do you think? Agree, disagree? Thanks for reading and please leave your comments or questions below.

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Pan Am Boeing 707 cabin images via
Lady eating food on a Qantas flying boat in the 1950s via Qantas.