Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Hubba Hubba Test

Joshua Zeitz, writing in American Heritage, looks at the progressive hiring processes of the airline industry in the old "Fly Me" days. An excerpt:

Until well into the 1970s, airlines enforced strict physical and age standards on stewardesses. In the 1930s they were expected to be about five-foot-four and weigh no more than 115 pounds; later, these numbers rose to five-foot-eight and 130 pounds, tops. They were also expected to be extraordinarily attractive. In the 1960s, Eastern Air Lines ran an advertisement with the headline “Presenting the Losers.” It showed 19 frowning all-American beauties who were “probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want.” But they hadn’t passed muster at Eastern, which demanded the very highest level of poise, intelligence, and good looks. “Sure, we want her to be pretty . . . don’t you? That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.”

In keeping with such standards, the airlines didn’t allow women who were married or older than 32 (35 at a few liberal carriers) to keep working as stewardesses. Therefore the turnover rate among cabin crews was amazingly high. In 1955 the average career of a flight attendant lasted just 27 months.

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