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The service that made it memorable - How was it made?

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The service that made it memorable - How was it made?

Old 1st Jan 2021, 11:57
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The service that made it memorable - How was it made?

Hello all, and a happy new year!

Now to my question - What would a lengthy transatlantic or transpacific Comet/707/DC-8/VC-10 flight look like for a cabin crew? Dinner prep at 16:00, toilets cleaned at 19:00? A standing nap in the galley at 20:00 with landing preparations at 22:00? What routines and schedules did pursers, stewards, and stewardesses follow to deliver on the marketings promise during the 1960s?

I think it's fair to say that our current image of what flying "used to be" in the 60's jet set age is more caricature than reality at this point. Even for most aviation enthusiasts; who generally skew toward the more technical. Images of sumptuous seats and flying lounges, with Michelin star level food and service by expert stewards and model-worthy stewardesses taken straight out of marketing material and generally accepted as fact. Or close to it. I'm more curious as to what the job entailed in actuality however.

To be perfectly frank the question arose because I wanted to try my hand at writing (about a transpolar Tokyo to Paris trip if you were wondering) during the holidays. And while I know a fair bit more about airline operation than the ordinary layman, I realise that I've got absolutely no idea what the service routines actually looked like. And information is hard to come by. Mostly, I think, because great service is highlighted and remembered as events. Snapshots. Seldom retold as part of a larger context.

Any and all memories, or suggestions for good sources, on the duties and routines of cabin crew during the early jetset age would be most welcome!
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Old 3rd Jan 2021, 11:46
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You remember the pull down movie screen? The modern world isn't ALL bad
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Old 3rd Jan 2021, 16:15
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I don't remember them at all, I started flying after they'd gone. Which is sort of why I'm asking this question in the first place. I've never experienced the "glamour" service of the past. And flown too little in the present to contrast it with even if I had.

I'm sure SOPs now and then don't differ all too much. But I'm still very curious as to what did differ. Times, technology, and service level was different after all. How were duties divided (BOAC had purser, steward one, steward two, and three ladies according to a short documentary retelling service in the 60s is to believed)? What were normal routines (There was less entertainment, but more involved catering etc)? What were common ailments/complaints from passengers and how were they treated at a time without the medications or service level we expect today? Etc. etc.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 07:34
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Originally Posted by Asturias56 View Post
You remember the pull down movie screen? The modern world isn't ALL bad
What screens?
A good book or look out the window was the only entertainment.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 10:37
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TWA; 707; LHR to JFK; 1976. Certainly screens in cattle class. Can't remember the film though.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 10:41
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Something different: They did sell the pneumatic earphones back then.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 12:23
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I'm never at a loss for entertainment on a flight these days thanks to an iPad. I can read, write, or a thousand other things to whittle away the hours. I was a bit surprised to learn (but shouldn't have been, really) that much of the food service at for example Pan Am was in and of itself a sort of entertainment. Especially in first class. Tourist class being a much smaller affair, and I suppose had less of an entertainment value as a result. Aside from which offerings of magazines was really one of the few things that could be called entertainment. Well, aside from a book or a view out the window as dixi88 mentioned.

I've tried to find travelogues that describe the longer transatlantic/transpacific flights to get more of a sense of what a trip was like. But no luck so far. Or rather, not in-depth enough to sate my curiosity.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 13:19
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Liovinus, Try reading Glamour in the Skies by Libbie Escolme-Schmidt who has collected a wide range of reminiscences from cabin crew who flew during the 1950s to 70s. It contains a mine of information which may help you.

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Old 4th Jan 2021, 17:24
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I tnhink it fair to say that "michelin quality food or close to it" is about as far from reality as it is possible to get.

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Old 4th Jan 2021, 17:51
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No movies or music on VC-10s to/from Muscat in the 1970s. The Tristars and 747s were better.
Had a film catch fire when it jammed on a BA747. Cabin crew turned it off and squirted a fire extinguisher in the projector.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 19:26
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Originally Posted by meleagertoo View Post
I tnhink it fair to say that "michelin quality food or close to it" is about as far from reality as it is possible to get.
Maybe not - I got bumped to first class on a flight from Seattle to London about 35 years ago (Pan Am 747). The meal service was simply stunning - a full blown seven course dinner. Made to order green salad, caviar (first and only time I've ever had it - decided I wasn't missing anything), I think there was a choice of eight different main course entries (one was prime rib - they wheeled the roast out on a trolley, you pointed at the cut you wanted and they sliced and served it to you).
The seats were mediocre compared to today's fancy lie-flat, and of course IFE was a pull down movie screen in the front of the cabin, but the meal service was pretty darned good.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 19:44
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I recall the first time I saw a film on a 747-100 (SAA JNB-LHR) and was amazed! The pneumatic headphones were GHASTLY and very uncomfortable. Later, I bought an attachment that plugged, had a battery and circuit board, mini-microphones and then you plugged your Walkman headphones into it. I also remember when VS introduced the personal Video8 player with a choice of films in Upper - must have been about 1989.

Yes, I did just catch the end of the silver service on one or two flights in the 1980s. But to get the real deal, you need to ask your question in the 'Cabin Crew' forum. They may have links to people that are now retired who could help.
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