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A month’s pay for one airline ticket?

A month’s pay for one airline ticket?

As people in the U.S. take to the air for the Thanksgiving weekend, it is interesting to look at how the cost of air travel has come down….yes, down, since back in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Americans flying to Europe these days have a few complaints about the hassles of air travel; however, you may be interested in comparing how far we’ve really come in terms of costconvenience and comfort of flights.  In 1960, according to U.S. government figures, US airlines carried about 62 million passengers, by 2010 it was over ten times that number at 720 million.  Here are a few ways that air travel has actually improved!

1. Cost of flying: Think air fares are through the roof? Better think again.  Few people could afford to fly back in the 1960’s.  A flight from New York to Paris was about $370 in 1960, when median family income was only about $450 per month.  That is $2800 in today’s prices, and almost a whole month’s income. So compare that to the $900 or so that you can get if you shop around,  and you’ll quickly see that today’s prices are actually a bargain.

2.  Convenience: Today we have hundreds of convenient, non-stop flights; however, prior to 1960 these options did not exist.  For example:

Flying from Chicago non-stop to Rome in 1960? Not without at least one stop along the way–and there were only two flights per week.  Here is a Chicago newspaper article from 1960.  Flying non-stop from Houston to Istanbul…you’re kidding, right?  Atlanta to anywhere outside the U.S……forget about it in the 60’s.

In the 1960’s Pan Am* began using Boeing 707’s from New York to Paris/London. It was at this time that they introduced their “round the world” flights.

Pan American DC-8
Pan American Airways DC-8 (photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Pan Am flight #1 was westbound, and flight #2 was Eastbound.  So, if you wanted to fly from New York to New Delhi, flight #2 had six stops along the way:  London (Paris on alternate days), Frankfurt, Vienna, Istanbul, Beruit, Karachi, and finally New Delhi.  From there it continued on to Burma, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu and then finally San Francisco.

3. Comfort: This is the only one where you might have a valid complaint.  Seats in coach were comfortable, and planes were often half-empty it seemed.  Sure there is less room nowadays…in some cases a lot less, but that is one of the trade-offs.  And the meals were better (Pan Am advertised meals catered by Maxim of Paris) as well as free.

But there are also some things that are better:  There is also a lot less cigarette smoke (none, in fact) which is certainly an added plus for non-smokers.  Did we think the smoke really did not venture into the non-smoking area?  Were we really that naive?

Gone are the days when you were satisfied to catch up on your reading on a long flight.  Now, however, we are spoiled.   We expect…DEMAND….movies and more.  And we get them…often for a fee.

*Want to know more about the history of Pan Am?  Check out this article that we found.