Monday, February 23, 2009

China to America in 1939 - More Stylish; But Not Much More Luggage


In 1939 Pan American Airways Systems launched a campaign to attract passengers from China to the USA away from the passenger liners and on to to their flying boats. No doubt the planes were a lot more stylish than todays flying buses - seats were comfy, men wore hats, the booze flowed freely (though air sickness was more common as the turnbulence was a bit rougher). But you didn't get much in the way of luggage allowance as this ad from a May 1939 edition of the South China Morning Post shows. The major selling point of the Pan Am service from Hong Kong to "Honolulu, San Francisco and Beyond..." was a whopping baggage allowance of 77 pounds (roughly 35kg) - not much more than today if you fly goat class. However, excess baggage was a steal at US$3 per 100lbs to the US (though it went by boat after you).

Americans actually did rather well out of Pan Am. If you'd flown British Imperial Airways to Rangoon in 1939 from Southampton you'd have been limited to just 44lbs (about 20kg) but then, as everyone knows, all an Englishmen needs in the tropics is a safari suit, solar topi and black tie for dinner whereas Americans clearly felt the need to carry all manner of stuff. Plus ca change.

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