While food, booze and leg room were far superior decades ago, these luxuries came at a cost — literally. In the ‘50s, 60’s and into the ‘70s, only the wealthy could afford to fly.
“Varying on the route, it was four to five times as expensive to fly in the Golden Age,” de Syon told “Fast Company.” “If you were a secretary, it might cost you a month’s salary to take even a short flight.”
A vintage magazine ad for Trans World Airlines — aka TWA — shows exactly how much you’d pay to fly in 1955. If you wanted to fly from Kansas City to New York, for example, you’d pay $52. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $490 in today’s dollars. (In modern times, you can book the same flight for less than half that.)
International travel was even more exorbitant; to go from New York to Rome, Italy, in 1955, you’d pay $360.20, or an incredible $3,340 in today’s dollars.
Happily, air travel is far more accessible to the average Joe today. And for that, we can thank deregulation.
Prior to 1978, when new laws took effect, the government exercised a lot of power over the commercial aviation industry, including what routes planes could take and the prices airlines charged for fares. Though the government is still involved in the industry, most notably through the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines are now competing more freely with each other, which has led to lower prices.