Americans who now endure the inconveniences of crowded airports, packed airplanes, and missed connections might not realize that flying was once an elegant, exhilarating adventure. In this colorful history, Daniel L. Rust traces the evolution of commercial air travel from the first transcontinental expeditions of the 1920s, through the luxurious airline environments of the 1960s, to the more hectic, fatiguing experiences of flying in the post-9/11 era.
In the beginning, flying coast-to-coast was an exciting yet uncomfortable journey of nearly forty-eight hours that required numerous stops and overnight travel by train. With time and technical innovation, passengers became increasingly removed both physically and psychologically from the raw experience of flying. Faster planes, pressurized cabins, onboard amenities, and stronger safety precautions made flying more convenient and predictable—but also less evocative and sensational.
Prior to the 1980s, Americans dressed for air travel in their formal best and enjoyed such luxurious onboard amenities as delicious meals and ample cabin space. What made air travel glamorous, however, also made it more expensive. With deregulation in 1978, cost reductions reduced flying to a more tedious and, after 9/11, more regimented experience.
Rust’s narrative brims with firsthand accounts from such celebrities as Will Rogers and from ordinary Americans. Enlivened by more than 100 illustrations, including vintage brochures, posters, and photographs, Flying Across America reminds today’s airline passengers of what they have gained—and what they have lost—in the transcontinental flying experience.