United Had Men-Only Flights Until 1970. Here’s the Manly Services They Offered.

From 1953 through 1970, United offered men-only ‘Executive flights’ between New York and Chicago and between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

These flights were operated by DC-6B aircraft and later Caravelles. Flights mostly operated at 5pm in each direction between the two cities(generally six days a week excluding Saturdays). They didn’t just ban women, but children also, and flight attendants catered to these business flights with special meals and offered complimentary cigars.

They offered ‘last minute message service’ (to make a call on behalf of the passenger back to the office) and the flights also had a teletype business news update with closing market prices. This was co-branded with the Wall Street Journal at one point.

I believe the New York – Chicago flights operated between LaGuardia and Midway until around 1961. That’s when they switched to the Caravelle and flew from Idlewild (now JFK) to O’Hare, at the time that scheduled air service was in the process of transitioning away from Midway. On the New York side the Executive flight was later moved to Newark.

United used to claim, in its history, “10,500 segments, with a load factor of 80 to 90 percent” — not surprising, these flew key business routes at the most popular time.

My favorite line from this second ad is “a delicious meal, prepared by experienced Continental chefs.” It’s almost as if the copywriters anticipated that United’s catering would indeed eventually be dictated by Continental Airlines executives and chefs.

Likely apocryphal but there’s a story that United sent vouchers to the wives of passengers on these Executive flights, “A special invitation for wives whose husbands like to fly” or something to that effect. They then surveyed those who redeemed the vouchers, and the most common response was “what flight?”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How could they possibly do this? Everyone knows that smoking on an airplane will cause it to explode into flames instantly!

  2. @Tom – great one!
    The first class seats certainly looked roomy. Stories like this are great, and belie Yogi Berra’s statement that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Keep ’em coming.

  3. My father use to take these flights all the time.. I wished they had flights today that would ban children on them. Would make travel a little easier since the parents of these kids don’t know how to parent.

  4. “Likely apocryphal but there’s a story that United sent vouchers to the wives of passengers on these Executive flights, “A special invitation for wives whose husbands like to fly” or something to that effect. ”

    The story about these vouchers being sent is true, but it has nothing to do with these UA men-only flights.
    In the 1930s one airline (might have been UA, but not sure) starting issuing vouchers to business men to bring their wives with them along, so they could show them how safe flying was (a serious concern back then). They discontinued the promotion because they decided to start calling the wives after the vouchers were redeemed, and a bunch of them had never set foot on a plane.

  5. About a year ago, I was in Lexington, KY and had a longer chat with the lady in the “lounge” there. She was an FA on these “Men Only” UA flights. She mentioned that they also offered shaves on the flights. Needless to say, it was a fascinating insight into a different era. If someone is in LEX and goes to the lounge, and an older lady is working the desk, I would ask.

  6. I can certainly understand the allure of a child-free plane, but why did men care one way or the other whether there were women on the plane? Did the flight attendants strip? Did the passengers strip to their underwear for comfort? I understand the concept of gender-specific camaraderie in the context of a club, but there’s not much camaraderie among strangers in a plane.

  7. It’s content like this that keeps your blog interesting. Thank you. Now, about all the click bait….

  8. My father took these numerous times in the 60’s between NY and Chicago. Later American copied United, adding their own competing flights. Later versions also featured stewardesses in hot pants on these flights. Great stuff !

  9. It is amazing how quickly this country has gone downhill – things like this remind us of how much has been lost.

  10. Good story about United’s “men-only” flights. You forgot one point. On each flight, every passenger got a free gift; usually something like a small tool or office gadget. Also, there was an upcharge (over first class) of about $3. The flights were fun, the drinks were plentiful and the steak dinner was excellent.
    Your other point about the letters home to the wives had nothing to do with the “men-only” flights. United, on occasion, on their regular flights, where a man and a woman were flying together, sent letters home to the wives of the passengers flying as a couple. The letters innocently asked the wives how they enjoyed their trip. Apparently this caused many of these wives to be quite surprised, since they weren’t on the trip. United quickly terminated the “letters home” campaign.

  11. Now, if they resumed those men-only flights from San Francisco to Palm Springs, or from Fort Lauderdale to Key West, they might again be a success, albeit for different reasons… 😉

  12. No queues to use the bathrooms, quiet, and steak. Hard to beat that combination. Just don’t expect to breathe.

  13. I picked up an envelope opener in Winter Park Florida at a Garage sale in the late 90’s, which is period, it has the United Air Lines name and logo and a tag line that says “Fly the Executive” its of very nice quality, i use it in my office, it was for sale from some Snow Birds, so quite possible the older Gentlemen who was in his 70’s at the time “Flew the Exec” no crying babies yes please!!! oh no i’m being non-PC…

  14. Former UAL employee here: The letters to the wives who ‘traveled’ with their ‘husbands’ was called the “Take Me Along” program by United in the 60’s. They used a pop song: “Take me along of you love-a me” as a jingle. It indeed backfired, as the ‘wives’ were usually the secretaries or mistresses!

  15. For those commenters wondering why these flights didn’t just exclude children, but also excluded women as well, please remember that the kind of awful, feeble, unbearable men this kind of promotion appealed to didn’t tend to think of women as more than children in many respects.

  16. My father, Captain Jack Cagney regularly bid the route from ORD. He always commented on how the Caravelle was his favorite aircraft. I remember the campaign came out with a floppy vinyl record. I think the words were “Take me a along if you luv-a-me. Take me along if you luv-a-me. Take me along with you. (man) My wife is my cutie but my office is my duty. Take me along with you. My heart will fly sweet and heavenly high up in the sky if you will take me along with you.

  17. Also, the term ‘flight attendant’ didn’t exist back then. It would have been stewardess or air hostess.for the women and steward or purser for the men.

  18. I can think of worse ways to travel, but 3:15 NY to Chicago? That’s an avg of 220mph, not much more than stall speed for a 737. But with steak, cigars and whisky I suppose no one was in much of a rush.

  19. I worked at EWR during those years I recall the steak was a filet mignogn, cooked medium rare. Unlimited free alcohol. Seats were 2 on each side of isle. Total of 60 seats all first class.
    Flight attendants were all single female and if they got married they were required to quit. They had to wear a girdle so as not to jiggle to much.
    Meal trays had real china and silverware and included a mini package of 4 cigarettes.
    Flight time inroute was around 2 plus hours Plane left EWR at 5pm.

  20. Was it teen in EARLY 70’S. Interesting art . ? What was ticket $ then?[1965-75} ? IF we seen it now, 2017 ,what is ticket cost? one from to at time N.Y to CHI] N.Y-Orlang] L.Y-DENVER] DEN-TEMPI,AZ TEMPI-DALLAS,TX DALLLAS-NY Much tks for Re. ED.

  21. Too bad those days are gone. There are few, if any, men-only spaces anymore. Even the Boy Scouts has been infiltrated by women and homosexuals. It’s unfortunate.

  22. I was a United Stewardess in 1965 and this flight was one of my routes. We flew a Caravelle airplane – 60 first class seats. It was a nice flight until it came time to hand out the cigars. 60 men lighting up 60 cigars in an enclosed space was possibly my worst nightmare. The second time I flew this route I convinced the other stewardess to hand out the cigars as the men were leaving – that worked great and we had no complaints.
    And as Grandpa Panzfeldwn said above; We were forced out when we married. I transferred to a ground job in 1966.

  23. I didn’t even know that there was such thing as a mans sky club. What a great idea, especially for executives and higher managers, great experience and possibility to do some networking on the flight. Cigars in the plane, ohh that would be nice to have now 🙂

  24. At least from 1961 thru 1970 the Caravelle flew EWR ORD BOTH ways at 1700. I dont remember the tkt charge except there was a $3.15 surcharge over the normal “F” fare
    It was for men only and carried over a 95% load factor.
    It was “For Men Only” UNTIL MS Dorothy Killgallin of the TV show WHATS MY LINE showed up at the gate with a VALID tkt issued by a travel agency. CEO George Keck was contact and after a 35 min delay the flight left with HER on it.
    The EXECUTIVE(men only) lasted for a short while afterwards then switched to a normal B727
    flight
    I know because I was the boarding agent on that evening at EWR

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