Thanksgiving –  A No Fly Holiday

Crowded airport Thanksgiving now and Vintage ad TWA

As much a tradition as pumpkin pie, the pre-holiday images of over-crowded airports, knee-deep with weary travelers in a tangle of luggage and shopping bags headed home for the holidays is a familiar Thanksgiving trope. We see it year after year.

But I am appalled at seeing this exact same image this year.

In 2020, home for the holidays must be taken quite literally.  Stay Home.

Despite the strong warnings from the CDC not to travel, millions are planning on flying this week. As the pandemic cases rise so is the number of people boarding planes to travel home for Thanksgiving.

It is a worrying sign that people flying to visit their families will be spreading more than holiday good cheer. They are potentially spreading the coronavirus.

When Flying Was Fun. And Safe

Of course, we all long for those simpler times when the only worries a Thanksgiving traveler trekking home had to worry about were the long lines, insufferable crowds, and dreaded delays. Now the fear of catching a deadly virus is added to the list of travel woes.


Vintage American Airlines ad

“Remember when the expression “going home to mother was anything but a laughing matter? Not anymore.” Vintage American Airlines ad

Long before the crowds, and the fear of illness, there was a time that flying for Thanksgiving was actually a fun experience.

Traveling for the holidays to be with loved ones is a long-beloved tradition.

Once upon a time driving long hours and long distances in a car was a harrowing time-consuming activity, but there was no alternative to get to grandma’s house. So in the early 1950’s when air travel became available and an affordable option for middle-class family’s, it opened up a new horizon for holiday get-togethers no longer constrained by time and distance.

For the modern mid-century family, the notion of flying home for the holidays was in fact a novelty and a grand experience at that. They could ditch their De Soto which was now as dated and old-fashioned as traveling by sleigh.

Vintage TWA Airline ad 1951

“Over the River and Over the woods. To grandmother’s house we go,” this 1951 TWA ad announces gaily.

The gleeful modern family fairly bursting with pep and anticipation couldn’t wait to board their flight to visit Grandma. Why let old-fashioned distance keep a family apart?

“There’s a new road now to an old tradition. It’s the TWA high way home for Thanksgiving. And what a blessing it is to families separated by too many rivers and too many woods….and so many years!

If you’ve let distance and lack of time keep you away too long, try traveling this high way. Find out how TWA can make it very near to someone dear- for even an ocean apart is only hours apart…by skyliner!

Flying Is A Family Affair

And it was no longer just going to grandmother’s house, grandma could travel just as easily to you.

Vintage American Airlines Ad

Vintage American Airlines Ad

“I’m a lot closer to my grandchildren- holiday time. I used to keep up with my grandchildren by snapshot. Now thanks to Flagship I see them often and not just on holidays but all through the years.”


Vintage TWA Ad


TWA went out of their way to make flying a family affair!  Flying was no longer just for Dad and his business trips. Once the airline started their Family Budget Plan, “…parents have had cause to cheer,'” boasted TWA in this 1949 ad. “For now they can take the whole family by air at down to earth prices.”

By traveling on a Monday Tuesday or Wednesday, they could save substantially. “As head of the family,” they explain, “Dad pays full fare. Mother and the children under 22 go for only half fare each”…and best of all crying infants and toddlers under 2 could fly free of charge!

Tempting you further, TWA promised, “The flight is a delight, the service supreme, with delicious hot meals served free. Best of all…and oh how mother loves this!…you’re there long before the kids start to fuss or fidget!”

Vintage American Airlines Ad

Compare the cheery disposition of Mr. and Mrs. Modern who have chosen the up -to-date way to travel to visit Grandmother with their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Outdated who chose the more antiquated mode of travel- their automobile.

Hampered by a snow storm they are unable to dig out in time for the turkey. Mrs. Outdated, with visions of stuffing and cranberries dancing in her head,  looks longingly at the speeding plane in the sky, carrying the wise Moderns to the destination.

“Don’t Give Up- Go Up,” declared American Airlines in this 1949 advertisement, touting the benefits and wonders of the new air travel that most post-war families had yet to experience.

“Air Travel- and only air travel can often make the difference between the accessible and the impossible. This is especially true during the holidays when the earthbound are frequently snowbound. Hence, wise travelers plan to go by air.”

“Also, air travel is little affected by the challenge of distance and time. The miles on the map lose their menace- the hands of the clock become friend instead of foe when you use this modern means of transportation.”

“So when holdiday travel plans seem likely to  get bogged down don’t give up- go up”

This when most of our holiday travel plans seem likely to get bogged down, don’t give up…Stay home! It’s the best holiday treat you can give yourself and your loved ones.

Stay safe my friends and have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2020.



  1. Pierre Lagacé

    Sadly Sally we’ll see what happens.


  2. Sally, have safe and enjoyable holiday. Best wishes, Keith


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