In-flight Entertainment 1950s Style

by Geoffrey Thomas & Christine Forbes Smith
1203
July 10, 2018
in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s
Smoking, banned today, was very popular on planes in the 1950s

In the 1950s and 60s in-flight entertainment (IFE) as we know it today was in its infancy and rudimentary. Although the first film was shown on an aircraft in 1921 it wasn’t until the 1960s that IFE became mainstream and popular.

In 1961, David Flexer of Inflight Motion Pictures developed the 16mm film system for commercial aircraft.

So let’s take a peek back through the archive vaults of AirlineRatings.com to reveal what travelers did to amuse themselves on those long flights in the 1950s and 60s.

READ: The do’s and don’ts of flight upgrades


The most popular pastime was, of course, reading – a good thriller, a romance or just catching up with the news in a newspaper because don’t forget there was no internet, FB or twitter via WiFi.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s
Reading a newspaper on board a Lufthansa 707

When you weren’t reading, mealtime was a grand affair even in economy.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s
Meal time was a grand affair

For those in First Class the meal was preceded by drinks at the bar.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


Canapes may also be on offer to the “pearl set”.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


Dinner was a multi course affair served more often by stewards in white coat and back tie no less – and at your table.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


After dinner or lunch, you might retire again to the lounge and meet the captain who would do the rounds. It was great PR to calm nervous flyers for passengers to chat with a multi-striped veteran who had experience etched in his rugged good looks.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


Chess was always – and still is – a great way to pass the time and a good game could take hours but would only seem like minutes.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


For those who wanted a simpler challenge maybe a game of drafts with mum and dad in economy.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s

Playing cards was also popular and airlines would issue them with logos, or pictures of planes or destinations that they flew.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


Flight crew were always on the lookout for junior flyers and would explain the route the aircraft was taking. Millions of young flyers signed up for the various Junior Flyers clubs which came with log books of your travels and pilots would oblige and fill in the details of the flight.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


Afternoon tea was a grand affair with full silver service with a collection of sweets and pastries that would tempt even the most resilient weight watcher.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


When you weren’t playing cards you could use them to build a house. This was a popular PR shot to illustrate how smooth jet travel was compared to the piston-engine aircraft they replaced.

in-flight Entertainment in the 1950s


Banned today, smoking was very popular – particularly after dinner.