Simanaitis Says

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IT’S TIME to celebrate the 100th anniversary of airline comfort. Things have changed a great deal since 1913’s first commercial scheduled passenger-carrying heavier-than-air flight (all these qualifiers are useful). Here’s a mini-review of a book on this.


Passenger Aircraft and their Interiors 1910-2006, by John Stroud, Scoval Publising, 2002. Both and list it.

The first aircraft interior wasn’t an interior at all; it was an open cockpit of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line’s Benoist (


This Benoist saved its passenger an arduous road trip around Tampa Bay in 1913.

There had been rather more elaborate cabins of lighter-than-air craft, for instance, a 1910 flight of Zeppelin’s LZ7 Deutschland. And Sikorsky’s Bolshoi Baltisky ( was a giant biplane with a fancy cabin (even a loo), though its few flights in 1913 weren’t commercial.

After World War I, airlines used converted bombers and transports. Sixty French Farman Goliaths were in service throughout Europe.


A pair of Air Union’s Farman Goliaths. Below, an interior before redesign rid it of internal structure and wicker seating. Images from Passenger Aircraft.


The Vickers Vimy bomber ( came too late to see WWI service, but its Commercial variant was one of the most popular airliners throughout the 1920s.

The Junkers G series of the 1920s were all-metal monoplanes. Developed about the same time as the Ford Trimotor (, they shared its three engines and corrugated aluminum skin.

Luft Hansa

Luft Hansa’s Junkers G 31, 1928. Its meal service looks quite civilized. Images from Passenger Aircraft.


During 1926, a pair of G 24s flew Luft Hansa’s Berlin/Peking service, a distance of more than 12,400 miles. Like the TAT’s transcontinental U.S. service (, it was far from non-stop).

The 1930s were the heyday of flying boats offering a new standard in passenger comfort. The reason for this was technical, not commercial: width of a flying boat being dictated by hydrodynamics, not aerodynamics.


The Boeing 314 inaugurated transatlantic service in 1939. Its accommodations included this game room/study. Images from Passenger Aircraft.


Promenade decks with large windows, sleeping berths and game rooms were part of the flight experience aboard the British Short and American Sikorsky, Martin and Boeing series. The last Short S.45 Solent service, Southampton to Maderia, ended in 1958.


The Short Solent S.45 introduced BOAC’s U.K./South Africa service in 1948. Its standards of passenger comfort were high indeed. Image above from Passenger Aircraft; the one below from a Solent on display at the Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.


The introduction of pressurized cabins meant aircraft could attempt to fly above the weather. The first pressurized service was 1940 in the Boeing 307 Stratoliner. It became widespread in several iconic post-war aircraft, the Lockheed Constellation, Super Constellation and Starliner and the Boeing Stratocrusier.


An Air France Lockheed Starliner, circa 1960. Sleeper seats of a Super Constellation look quite modern. Images from Passenger Aircraft.


TWA used its Lockheed Starliners for transatlantic service as well as its polar route flying Paris/Anchorage/Tokyo. Like other piston-engine aircraft of the era, they were soon displaced by turboprop counterparts. And impressive puffs of black smoke on startup gave way to mundane whines.


Boeing’s Stratocruiser was introduced by Pan American World Airways in 1949. Its lower-deck lounge bar set it apart. Images from Passenger Aircraft.


The Stratocruiser traced heritage to Boeing’s B-29, B-50 and C-97 military aircraft. A major attraction was its lower-deck cocktail lounge reached by a spiral staircase. (Similar access, albeit to more seats, not a lounge bar, is retained in the upper deck of today’s 747). The Stratocruiser’s accommodations were so spacious that a steward could walk in front of an aisle-seat table to serve a window-seat passenger.

And weren’t those the days! ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013


  1. Ivan Berger
    June 10, 2013

    Early 747s did have upstairs lounges.

    • simanaitissays
      June 10, 2013

      Hi, Ivan,
      Yes, those were the good old days before it generally got turned into Business Class.

  2. Dave Canfield
    June 11, 2013

    I remember my first flight, it was when I joined the air force. It was in a DC3 . When the pilot reved the engines to start (at the end of the runway) I thought the plane would come apart right there Dave

    • simanaitissays
      June 11, 2013

      Hi, Dave,
      I was always put off by the huge cloud of thick black smoke on firing up the engines.

  3. Eddie
    October 1, 2015

    Just remember the days of smoking in an airplane. Forget the second and first hand smoke. Your smoking inside a flying fuel Tank. That said their was to my knowledge a issue with that.

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