Mile-high club

The ’70s was a golden age of air travel, the epit­ome of which was Qan­tas’s First Class lounges. DAN DOWN sips a vodka mar­tini and asks if we’ll ever re­turn to such hal­cyon days.

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For­get about po­litely ask­ing the chap be­hind you if it’s OK that you lean your seat back (not that any­one both­ers to ask any­more, any­way). No, this is the ’70s, man, and the only thing you’ll have to ask for po­litely dur­ing the flight is a pina co­lada, be­cause you’re sat in a large swivel seat, your mas­sive flared trousers stretch­ing glo­ri­ously across a shag-pile car­pet. The im­age above and ac­com­pa­ny­ing brochure art­works re­veal our na­tional car­rier’s Cap­tain Cook Lounge circa 1971. They’re re­minders of a time when cha ing with fel­low pas­sen­gers in a nau­ti­cal-themed liv­ing room at 35,000 feet was the norm... and hair was big. “The Cap­tain Cook Lounge oc­cu­pied the en­tire up­per deck of the first Qan­tas Boe­ing 747-200 fleet,” says Phil Capps, Qan­tas Head of Cus­tomer Prod­uct and Ser­vice De­vel­op­ment. “It was de­signed to cre­ate the feel of an 18th cen­tury ship’s cabin with lanterns, a globe and rope coils. It was open to First Class pas­sen­gers only and was the largest 747 lounge in the world. It could seat about 20 peo­ple who would en­joy cock­tails and snacks, and pas­sen­gers could also smoke on board then.” The Econ­omy cabin wasn’t to­tally forgo en how­ever, with li le etch­ings of Cap­tain Cook on wall pan­els through­out. But what of en­ter­tain­ment? Where are the in-flight movies? While there was no live mu­sic on board, “The new 747 was the first Qan­tas air­cra to of­fer au­dio en­ter­tain­ment via head­sets,” says Phil. “Qan­tas was proud of its pro­gram and even re­leased a two­vol­ume LP record of its 747 tunes.” We’d love to hear that vinyl. But the glory days are still here, in fact. To­day, most ma­jor air­lines have ex­clu­sive lounge ex­pe­ri­ences, al­beit on the ground. Qan­tas’s flag­ship First Lounges in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne, for ex­am­ple, were de­signed by ac­claimed de­signer Marc Newson. In the air First Class pas­sen­gers on the Qan­tas Air­bus A380 air­cra have their own pri­vate First Suites, with spa­cious seats be­com­ing fully flat beds, touch­screen TVs and other mod-cons that hadn’t been in­vented in the ’70s. Still, you can’t beat a fluffy swivel chair, can you?

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