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How the jet changed air travel

Boeing 707

A Chilean Air Force Boeing 707 bound for London takes off from the Iquique Air Base on January 18, 2000.

Image of Jet Set: The People, the Planes, the Glamour, and the Romance in Aviation's Glory Years
Author: William Stadiem
Publisher: Ballantine Books (2014)
Binding: Hardcover, 384 pages

If you're someone who frequently takes cross-country or even international flights, you have the Boeing 707 to thank for making them shorter and more affordable. It cut travel time from New York to London in half, and opened up jet setting to a new clientele.

"It usually was 14, 15 hours, and you had to stop in places like Gander, Newfoundland, or Reykjavik, Iceland...and you got there nonstop in six hours, which was unbelievable," said William Stadiem, author of the new book Jet Set: The People, the Planes, the Glamour and the Romance in Aviation’s Glory Years.

Although the jet itself didn't take off until the late 1950s, Stadiem says the so-called "jet set" lifestyle was nothing new; other modes of transportation were simply more in vogue at the time.

"They were the yacht set, or the Queen Mary set. They were just rich people who liked to travel Europe and live in high style," he said.

But after 1958--when the Boeing 707 came along--jet setting became much more affordable for your average middle-class American.

"One of the best-selling books of the '60s was Europe on five dollars a day. You could live like a king on five dollars a day," Stadiem said. "And airlines were doing package tours of one month in Europe, including airfare, for under a thousand dollars. That was a bargain."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
Image of Jet Set: The People, the Planes, the Glamour, and the Romance in Aviation's Glory Years
Author: William Stadiem
Publisher: Ballantine Books (2014)
Binding: Hardcover, 384 pages

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