After Title VII and Deregulation
When World Wings International, a philanthropic group of former
flight attendants for Pan Am, held a reunion in New York City in the
fall of 2003, the New York Times took a nostalgic look back at air
travel with the airline alumnae. The women who attended ‘‘all worked the
skyways before stewardesses became flight attendants, before the wom-
en’s movement, before airborne luxury was edged out by low fares and
frequent flier miles. Then, flying commercial was elegant, elite. Passen-
gers were well dressed and well coi√ed and left their crying babies at
home, and the stewardesses who pampered them were glamorous.’’ In the
pre-feminist era the job imposed now-unthinkable requirements as to
age, marital status, weight, and looks, readers learned. Despite the strin-
gent rules, the reunion attendees remembered that they ‘‘were overjoyed
to have the job . . . Suddenly they had the prestige and cachet approaching
that of a model or actress today.’’ The stewardess alumnae ‘‘preferred the
good old sexist days’’ to ‘‘hawking headsets and minibottles of liquor and
keeping the peanuts-per-passenger ratio as low as possible. The days
before the concerns were shoe bombs and stun guns.’’ Such paeans to a
luxurious past have become a staple of aviation reporting in recent years,
as passengers and the crew who serve them have struggled with economic
turmoil and service cutbacks resulting from deregulation, and, worse, the
current climate of escalated terrorist threats aloft.∞
Much as African American women forced their way into stewardessing
just as the jet age eroded its benefits and added to its burdens, flight
attendants managed to make the job less sexist and more permanent in
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