Something to Drink? United Airlines Training Films, 1965

Monday, November 20, 2023

Working as a commercial flight attendant is an exhausting career. Even before the emergence of recent issues like pandemics and increased passenger “air rage,” the job of serving travelers on an airplane was never easy. Flight attendants experience long hours, short turnarounds, loneliness, consistent on-call status, potential for radiation exposure, thankless customers, and more. And they rarely receive the credit they deserve.

Recently, Hagley acquired a set of four training films produced by United Airlines circa 1965. The series was used to help instruct United flight attendants, then referred to as stewardesses, on “advanced public contact,” and includes examples of proper and improper behavior when interfacing with other humans while on duty.

As well as demonstrating a few basic situations that a flight attendant may face in the course of her work, these behavioral examples illustrate some of the high standards to which commercial airlines held their staff members at the time: be cheerful, be alert, arrive on time for shifts, and be exceedingly patient with impatient customers and fellow employees. 

While certain requirements for flight attendants may have changed since the 1960s (for example, cabin crew members are now permitted to be older than 28 and be male), the expectations set by employers and customers alike continue to be incredibly high. Remember to thank a flight attendant on your next trip!

To view more films like the “United Stewardess Advanced Public Training” series, visit the Sponsored and industrial motion picture films collection in Hagley's Digital Archive.


Ona Coughlan is the Audiovisual Digitization Archivist at Hagley Museum and Library