Image via Unsplash.com- Ross Parmly

The Major Airline That Offered Men Only Executive Flights For Nearly Two Decades

Cigars, bare feet, special gifts and no women allowed was the norm on special Executive flights for two decades

Andrew Martin
4 min readNov 25, 2023

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Airlines offer varying levels of flight accommodations with the intent of drawing more customers. Naturally, these have changed over the years, but could look very different in the past. For instance, for nearly two decades, United Airlines offered a regular Executive ticket from New York and Newark to Chicago, which provided First Class accomodations, all while simultaneously banning female passengers from these flights.

Jake Rosen of Mental Floss reported on the history of the chauvinistic Executive flights. Offered between 1953 and 1971, United offered a flight on all evenings except Sundays at 5 p.m. from New York City or Newark, New Jersey, which traveled to Chicago (and back). It was specifically designed for commuting. Only the high salaried would be going back and forth between these cities for work, so it was intentionally fashioned as a “good old boys” club, complete with extensive amenities and no women allowed. This was all vetted and approved by the Civil Aeronautics Board.

United boldly advertised these flights as “A Club in the Sky — For Men Only.” The Wall Street Journal was even involved as a branded partner for a time.

Furthermore, in 1954, one of the company’s representatives explained the reasoning behind the Executive flights:

“What we give men is an opportunity to get away from women. We don’t regard it as segregation. We regard it rather as a little luxury…

“As soon as a man gets in the plane, he can take off his coat and vest, if he wants to. And we give him a pair of slippers, so he can take his shoes off, too, and really relax. What results is a kind of smoking-car atmosphere. A passenger can smoke a cigar or his pipe, if he likes. He can’t do that on other flights. A lot of women object to sitting next to a man smoking a pipe; a lot of men object, too. Let those men ride with the women.”

Passengers who paid the $67 fare (In 1960, the average American weekly income was about $100) could take off their ties and shoes while…

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Andrew Martin

Dabbler in history, investing & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about history, diversity, culture, sports, investing and crypto.