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These 13 Visually Stunning Ads Offer a Glimpse of Airlines' Golden Age

When seats were wide, wine was cold and life was good

Consumers look to airlines for plenty of things these days, but glamour probably isn't one of them. Unless you're among the privileged few who can afford to fly in premium class (and take heart: 91 percent of us cannot), you choose an airline based on price. As your grandmother may have told you, things were not always this way. Until 1978's Airline Deregulation Act opened the industry to price competition, carriers differentiated themselves with their food, their service, and their destinations.

And their advertising was beautiful.

For his upcoming book Airline Visual Identity, 1945-1975, the German author and entrepreneur Matthias C. Hühne collected the most visually transporting examples of airline marketing from the pre-deregulation era, a time when passengers dressed up, the Chateaubriand was sliced in the aisle, and flying itself was exciting.

"The book covers the time period when the airline business was among the most prestigious, cutting-edge industries," Hühne told us from his office in Berlin, "and this is reflected in the quality of their advertising and visual identity." Much of that identity rested on destinations that, however ordinary they are now, seemed exotic back then. Posters often starred the airplanes themselves, whose slivery skins and spinning blades looked like modernity itself.

Below, frequent fliers, is a sampling of some of what you missed.

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