- From the Archives: Camaro's NASCAR 1969 Pace Cars
- This Day In Automotive History
- Getting Future Road-Trippers Behind the Wheel at LEGOLAND Florida
- Shop Local or Take a Hike? With Rail Trails, Those Touring New Hampshire by Car Can Do Both in One Day
- Sneak Peek: 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C
- Go Dogs Go!: Uncork the Love at Flag Hill Winery -- and More Dog-Friendly Fun Near the New Hampshire Coast
- Event Coverage: 2013 La Jolla Concours d'Elegance
- Tank-of-Gas Adventure: Winter Wine Tour on the Upper Peninsula
- Event Coverage: 2013 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
- Auto News: 2013 Desert Classic Concours d'Elegance
- Auto News: Romney's Rambler
- Tank-of-Gas Adventure: Historic Bedford Springs Hotel
With tips for Fido-friendly travel, road trips on a budget, and much more, PlanYourRoadTrip.com is our favorite new trip-planning website.
|Retrospective: Braniff International Airways|
|Written by Rich Truesdell|
|Sunday, 11 July 2010 17:59|
Remembering the Pucci-clad stewardesses of cutting-edge Braniff Airways performing their version of an in-flight strip tease
If there's anything I like writing about as much as cars and travel, it's the golden age of air travel, from the start of the jet age until deregulation in 1977. Back then, air travel was considered a luxury, something truly special even for middle-class families... when it wasn't uncommon to dress up before making a transcontinental trip for that summer vacation. Compare that to now, when it's almost to the point that we'll be charged to use the bathroom in-flight. Oh, how times have changed.
And during this golden age of jet travel, one airline, Texas-based Braniff International, clearly stood apart from the rest, In 1965, the company outfitted its stewardesses (my politically correct spell-checker tried to change that to "flight attendants") in Pucci-designed uniforms. In 1966, the company ended the plain plane when they painted its fleet in six bold colors. In a special edition of Airways Classics magazine, the editors pay tribute to Braniff's short-lived influence on the way we traveled a half century ago.
The best overview of Braniff International Airways can be found at the Braniff Pages, which includes a video of a mid-Sixties television ad. Here I'm focusing on how Braniff marketed itself in the Sixties and Seventies before deregulation, setting itself apart from domestic competitors like American, Continental, Eastern, Pan American, TWA, and United. Braniff did this two ways. First, they outfitted their stewardesses in an ensemble created by famed designer Emilio Pucci.
Pucci would end up designing seven complete outfits for Braniff hostesses, pilots, and ground crew between 1965 and 1977. During flights, the cabin crew performed an in-flight strip tease. Upon boarding, they wore reversible jackets. Once in the cabin, they shed this outer layer, revealing a raspberry suit with coordinated boots and shoes. While serving dinner, they changed into a serving dress called a Puccino so as to not soil their suits. Before the end of the flight, they changed once more--this time into culottes, again with color-coordinated footwear. Depending on the length of the flight, the cabin crew would change into four separate outfits.
Several years ago, there was an auction for a complete 90-piece Braniff wardrobe. Bids started at an incredible $100,000.
When I initially thumbed through the Airways Classics special edition, I was struck by the ad you see here, which clearly differentiated Braniff's 747 service. Braniff wasn't the first airline to launch 747 jumbo jet service, but when they did, they did so with their usual flair. Try to imagine a time when airlines had lounges not only in first class, but in coach as well. Braniff's 11 brightly painted 747s were equipped with three lounges for first class and three more for coach passengers. Something to think about the next time you're flying in steerage with the seatback of the passenger in front of you touching your nose. Braniff billed its first-class lounge in the 747's upper deck this way: "Come up to the International Lounge, an intimate club overlooking the world. You'll find the beverages and hors d'oeuvre buffet superb." Quite a contrast to the Coke and stale peanuts that pass for in-flight cuisine on domestic flights today.
In 1973, Braniff commissioned Alexander Calder to paint several of the planes in their fleet as flying mobiles, again setting the company apart from its competitors. All this lavish luxury came to an end in 1977, when the airlines were deregulated and had to compete primarily on price, rather than service. In spite of a cooperative effort with British Airways to fly the Concorde with U.S. crews from Dallas to Washington, D.C., Braniff floundered and, in 1982, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was reorganized twice but, since 1992, its brightly colored planes have been absent from the skies. As travelers, we're all poorer for its passing.