By the early 1960s, an airline flight from New York to London that might take up to 15 hours in the early 1950s could be completed in less than seven hours. However, aviation nostalgia is hard, and "golden periods" are rarely as blissful as they appear. In fact, much of the improvement in travel time was due to faster airplanes which allowed more flights per day.
The average flying time from JFK to LHR in 1960 was 5 hours 30 minutes. One reason for this reduction in flight time was that the new jets could fly at higher speeds for longer distances. The Boeing 707-320 could cruise at 340 miles per hour and reach a maximum range of 925 miles before needing refuelling, while the Douglas DC-8 could do 400 miles per hour and had a range of 1150 miles. The new planes also used less fuel per passenger than the older models and were therefore able to carry more passengers per trip.
JFK opened in late August 1957 and was originally designed as a temporary facility. It replaced Newark International Airport as the main airport for New York City. The new airport was supposed to become obsolete after only five years but has since then become the world's largest air cargo hub as well as one of the busiest airports in the world.
New York City was by far the fastest growing city in the United States in the early 1960s, with a population of nearly 6 million people.
The 1950s are commonly regarded as the "golden age of aviation." In reality, when adjusted for inflation, a round-trip travel from Chicago to Phoenix might cost $1,168. In today's money, a one-way ticket to Europe might cost more than $3,000. Passengers, on the other hand, got what they paid for. Traveling first class back then would have been about as comfortable as flying third class now; even traveling by business class would have been more expensive. There were no direct flights between many major cities, and those that did exist were very short.
The average price of a first-class seat on an intercontinental airline in 1950 was $125. That is equivalent to about $1,500 in today's dollars. By comparison, a second-class fare was $55, or almost $750 in today's money. A third-class fare was $10, which is about $120 in today's dollars.
For example, there were no direct flights between Chicago and Miami, but passengers could take one flight to Minneapolis and change planes there. The total cost of this trip was $139 ($1,168 in today's money), rather than $1,298 if you bought each ticket separately.
In conclusion, flying was extremely affordable in the 1950s, but only if you were willing to pay full price for tickets.
If you think you have a lot to complain about in terms of air travel now, consider what it was like to fly in the 1930s. The start of a worldwide sensation. According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, just 6,000 Americans flew commercially by airplane in 1930. By 1940 that number had increased to 70,000.
The average flying time between New York and London was 10 hours. A third of those flying now would still be flying if they continued at their current pace - over 15 hours each way. Modern aircraft are much more efficient today, but back then they used more fuel per passenger mile, so overall they could not compete with commercial flights operated by airlines who focused on speed and comfort rather than distance traveled for money.
In 1938 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a bill that established a Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to regulate the industry. The CAB decided which companies could operate flights within certain geographical areas and set safety standards for airplanes. It also created an airport system so that people living near airports did not need to travel far to reach one of them. This saved many miles of road traffic and made aviation popular during World War II when there was a need for transportation resources elsewhere than in combat zones.
After World War II the civil aviation market expanded rapidly as millions of dollars worth of goods were transported across oceans for trade and military operations.