Airline Decline: Not So Friendly Skies

The once-luxurious world of air travel becomes mass transit.

ByABC News via logo
February 14, 2010, 12:50 AM

Feb. 14, 2010— -- When it comes to air travel, no matter where you look, the story is the same: With constant delays, oversold flights, hidden fees and stuck-on-the-tarmac horror stories, flying is just not fun.

But it was not always like this. There really were good, old days.

Anne Sweeney was a Pan American World Airways flight attendant in the airline's heyday, starting in 1964. In her crisp "Pan Am blue" uniform, gloves and matching hat, Sweeney's entire job was focused on keeping customers comfortable.

"People were given pillows, blankets, magazines, playing cards, pens and a hot meal, wine, top-shelf liquor -- and that was just in economy," Sweeney said.

Sweeney and her fellow flight attendants prepared warm meals for all passengers. Those in first class were often served seven-course meals that began with caviar and French champagne.

The airline was strict about how the flight attendants dressed, the length of their hair, and their body weight. It went as far as to regulate their make-up: All women were required to wear the same shade of pink Revlon lipstick. The groups of fashionably dressed women walking together made quite a splash, especially overseas.

"It was very glamorous when you walked into an airport with your hat on and your gloves on, and your shined shoes, and your pretty uniform. And it was very gratifying to know that you were somebody special," Sweeney said.

And the passengers also looked the part.

"Flying was an occasion and people dressed up," she said, recalling that men wore suits and women wore dresses and fine jewelry. "They really were excited about it. It wasn't a chore. "