Our cabin crew blogger Lisa comes over all nostalgic about how air travel has changed since she’s been flying… and hopes her reminiscing doesn’t reveal her age!

After reminiscing with the girls and having a good giggle… it got me thinking about how much has changed on-board over the last 25 years whilst I have been flying around in my sky suit. It struck me that a nostalgic look back at airline travel may be of interest to some of you out there, so here goes…

One of the most dramatic differences between then and now is the inflight meal service. Cast your mind back to when you bought a flight ticket and the price included a three course meal. It was the norm for the crew to offer everybody drinks and wine prior to your meal, serve a meal presented on a tray with cutlery, offer teas and coffees along with liqueurs, then hand out hot towels (to which I’ve seen people start to chew mistaking it for the fourth course!)

Lancashire hotpot

Everything would then have to be cleared before duty free passed through the cabin…’wacky races’ springs to mind!! But we managed it every time. These days as trends change we’re told that consumers prefer choice including when and what they would like eat or drink this means that the price of an inflight meal is an additional extra and not compulsory. The difference to the crew is a less busy meal service but a much busier and lengthy drink and snack service due to the popularity of retail hot drinks and hot snacks.

What’s your preference? Would you like to see the return to an all-in-one priced ticket with meal included or do you prefer the freedom to choose?

In the past it was quite the norm to see passengers spruced up wearing their ‘Sunday best’ to go on holiday; I suppose flying was more of an event that had been planned for months in advance. These days leisure flying is a much more casual affair with a dressed down trend leading the way. There has been the odd occasion when some people have taken this quite literally! Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a ‘toned six pack’ but if ya board with no top on you’ll be asked to cover up the bod!

Travellers used to dress up in Sunday best
 The Eighties

For those that like to keep their clothes on, a memorable (fashion) garment which springs to mind would be the good old 80s shell suit. I can recall this classic, in various colours gracing the aircraft aisles for a long time. The light weight zipper with matching elasticated pants worn with stilettos was always a winner for comfy air travel! However I never had the pleasure of seeing anyone break into a spot of body popping in the back galley! Does anybody still wear these?!

Around the same era the popularity of sports holdalls exploded, when these were crammed full they were huge!

holdall bags were huge in the 1980s

In my opinion the best thing to happen to cabin crew was the invention of the mobile phone, now this makes me sound really old but when I first became cabin crew there was NO mobile phones. In 1987 I rented a pager for £5.00 a month which meant I could still be contactable and not house bound for hours at a time. I can still remember some years later being on standby and out shopping with my pal who had her dads mobile phone which was the size of a house brick and laughing hysterically when we got called out for a 14 day trip to Hong Kong and thinking that phone was the bees knees!

The Nineties 

Uniforms have come and gone, I must admit my favourite was my first ever Monarch winter uniform when I joined in 1990. The uniform that gave me a permanent headache was my first summer uniform. This particular ensemble was a long swingy cotton skirt, which I constantly obsessed about ironing into perfect pleats using tons of spray starch. I remember swishing down the cabin one day when the hem of my perfect pleats got caught on an arm rest, as I passed I heard this almighty rip and I ended up with a long flapping train of material following me down the aisle, Cinderella eat ya heart out… it was funny at the time and my faithful sewing kit saved the day.

Monarch cabin crew 1990s
Question: Can you remember when smoking on-board an aircraft was banned?
Answer: 1995.

Pre 1995 my working position was at the rear of the aircraft, which back then was the designated smoking cabin. I remember always boarding embracing a clear cabin and after takeoff when the no smoking sign went out, everybody would light up and start puffing in unison! There were always passengers seated in the non smoking cabin who wanted to smoke and I recall explaining the rules many times, the usual solution was to allow passengers to swap seats for a couple of minutes so someone could have a quick ‘tab’, musical chairs at 30,000ft springs to mind!

smoking not allowed

I can remember the lingering smell of nicotine on my pinny, my uniform and my crew bag after the flights and experiencing a permanently blocked nose! I vividly remember how much better I felt after the first couple of no smoking flights. These days in my experience it’s pretty much unheard of for someone to light up during a flight and if they do you can pin point the culprit straight away….you just follow your nose!

Does anyone remember the good old PORTABLE boogie box? Way back in the /early nineties it was the boogie boxes that filled the hat bins, thank god for the arrival of the digital age of music! These days the hat bins are full with cabin wheelie bags as everybody wants a swift exit to avoid hanging around waiting for suitcases.


Drop your comments below and let me know your memories of past flights…


  1. My First Monarch flight was a weekend flight and hotel won in a travel trade competition.
    The flight was on a Monarch Bristol Brittania, 4 engined turboprop . Known as the whispering giant. Luton to Athens and we had 2 hot meals served during the 5 hour flight.Sat in the back section as this used to be the First Class area , less noise and vibration.My next flight is Birmingham to Rome 11th oct and then back 23rd from Venice. Looking forward to my legroom seats and hope it is not the “” brought in ” aircraft!

  2. In my experience of flying I have never been treated to full gone 3 course meals, but when flying what I always looked forward to was the meal we got given. Yes call me sad if you will but I love just a single tray consisting of a basic hot meal with bread and a muffin perhaps for dessert! Many times it was just given to me without asking. Futura, Iberworld all spring to mind. And Palmair back in the heyday offered all their tickets for 59GBP and that included your hot meal going and coming back! I do get slightly annoyed however in today’s age as that “tray” I onced so enjoy doesnt seem to exist.

    There’s only ever some fancy gourmet meal cooked by a celebrity chef off TV or something silly. I flew with a new Spanish airline a few weeks back and they handed the menu cards out and I was well disappointed with the selection, the only near thing to a proper meal was a baguette which they didn’t even have when I asked what it was!

    I believe that airlines should have on their websites a menu where you choose your meal and it gets delivered to you on your flight, And no fancy nonsense! haha. Same with duty free these days its typical what ever I want they dont seem to have it onboard that day!
    Oh well 😉

    • Hi Matthew, thanks for your feedback. I’ve passed this on to our commercial team and inflight caterers as well, for their interest. We do our best to ensure there is sufficient duty free to match demand on every flight, but it is quite a difficult one to predict! We’re working on ways to improve this for our customers. Thanks again.

  3. Loved the comment about the boogie box – I still have one (twin cassette decks, so that tells you how old it is), but in our household we refer to it as a “ghetto blaster” :>))

  4. My first time flying experience was with Monarch to Faro, I was petrified, I’d always said I’d never get on a plane. I was talked into it by friends & though the take off freaked me out a bit I was fascinated by the views from the windows, flying above fluffy cotton wool clouds & couldn’t believe the speed the plane was flying at, seemed like we were hardly moving at all! The plane had two aisles with seat plan 2 – 4 – 2.

    I’d never been abroad before, I think we had a choice of meals from a printed menu & I’m sure my daughter kept hers as a momento! I also still have a pack of Monarch playing cards which we bought on that flight.

    My best moment on the flight was the approach to Faro, it was a beautiful sunny day & all I could see was a beautiful turquoise sea with a vast expanse of white sand, followed by a smooth landing.

    Still fly with Monarch, still enjoy flying after the take off, not so scared these days though, just don’t enjoy the first 20 seconds or so!!!

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