What happened to the dream that air travel
would be “Oh so comfortable”?

Air travel advertisement showing how travelling by air was meant to be.

The interior of the plane in the advertisement above, remarkable by comparison with air travel today, closely matches a model that Delta Airlines advertised to be “as modern as a night club, yet quiet in tone and color. They’ll be exciting, but restful.”

In front of the plane, two groups of four seats on each side of the aisle faced each oth­er, “arranged for bridge-play­ing four­somes, for busi­ness groups, for fam­i­lies trav­el­ing together.”

The Sky Lounge in back of the plane had “easy- chair com­fort­able seats” for six peo­ple. Delta invit­ed cus­tomers to “join your friends for qui­et con­ver­sa­tion, cards or cof­fee, in the lux­u­ri­ous atmos­phere of an exclu­sive club.”

Blue was the pre­dom­i­nant col­or, with con­trast­ing tan leather accents and ceil­ing fab­ric, accent­ed with crim­son red leather details. Wal­nut-pan­eled bulk­heads sep­a­rat­ed the compartments.

That Delta mod­el car­ried 56 pas­sen­gers, includ­ing six Sky­lounge seats usable in-flight.

Amer­i­can Air­lines and Unit­ed Air­lines ordered the com­mer­cial DC‑6 in 1946, and took deliv­ery in Novem­ber of that year. Pan Amer­i­can Air­ways used the DC‑6 to start tourist-class ser­vice across the North Atlantic.

When World War II end­ed in 1945, and the demand for mil­i­tary air­craft fell, the Dou­glas Air­craft Com­pa­ny mod­i­fied its new­ly designed trans­port air­craft, com­mis­sioned by the Unit­ed States Army Air Forces in 1944.  That mod­i­fied air­craft was the DC‑6.

The U.S Air Force chose the DC‑6 to be the Pres­i­den­tial Air­craft, a pre­de­ces­sor to today’s Air Force One. It was des­ig­nat­ed the VC-118, deliv­ered on July 4, 1947, Inde­pen­dence Day, and named The Inde­pen­dence after Pres­i­dent Har­ry Truman’s home­town, Inde­pen­dence, Mo.

This adver­tise­ment pro­mot­ing the new plane appeared in Collier’s mag­a­zine in March 1946, three months before the DC6 flew on June 29, 1946. It showed how fly­ing might have been.

Air travel is unpleasant today!

Stand­ing in line for check-in…getting labels for baggage…trundling bag­gage to a des­ig­nat­ed counter which is poor­ly identified…hoping that the bag­gage will get to the des­ti­na­tion with the plane and not dis­ap­pear into a dis­tant country.

Then there is the line­up at the depar­ture gate where trav­el­ers with “sta­tus” get to board first and oth­er pas­sen­gers play the ‘age card’, or the “I can’t walk fast enough” or those who protest at the gate that they are in the right group to board.

On the plane it is worse.  The aisles are nar­row, the over­head bins aren’t large enough to accom­mo­date bag­gage that is sup­pos­ed­ly prop­er­ly sized to be tak­en on-board.

The seats are so uncomfortable…so narrow…so close together…they recline a few inches—just enough to have the pas­sen­ger behind ask that you straight­en your seat-back. Then there is the kid who kicks your seat-back for that entire jour­ney from hell.

The toi­lets are now so small that gen­er­ous­ly-sized pas­sen­gers have to back into them.

For­tu­nate­ly, air­line food is now only served on over­seas flights where the pas­sen­ger is asked., “Chick­en or pas­ta,” and left to won­der what they request­ed when it is deliv­ered to their tiny table. Each tray comes com­plete with a stale bun, but­ter in a lit­tle con­tain­er with sealed foil-paper cov­er­ing, salt and pep­per in small paper bags, and a taste­less pud­ding for dessert.  On domes­tic flights the “air­line food” has been replaced by odor­ous snacks car­ried aboard by trav­el­ers who believe they will need to eat on a one-hour flight. 

By 1950, as we learn from this advertisement
in Collier’s magazine, the airlines of the world
had chosen the DC‑6 for their fleet.

This advertisement contrasts
air travel on a Douglas DC‑6
with travelling by train

“It’s so easy…so comfortable…so clean! None of that overnight fuss and nui­sance of chang­ing clothes in cramped quar­ters. No stand­ing in line for meals—you get delec­table full-course meals free! And tip­ping is not allowed.”

Mean­while, when Dou­glas was pro­mot­ing the DC‑6, oth­er air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers like Cess­na and Repub­lic Avi­a­tion were pro­mot­ing their air­craft as the lat­est and the safest for per­son­al flying.

 What a dif­fer­ence today! Think about it every­time you plan to trav­el by air

To see for your­self oth­er fea­tures of this air­craft, please view this 60-sec­ond news­reel film intro­duc­ing the Dou­glas DC‑6 in 1946.

And  link to a mul­ti-cam­era 1950 film pro­mot­ing the safe­ty of the Dou­glas DC‑6