In promoting the journey, TWA glossed over its many dangers and discomforts. For one, a 1930s TWA airplane was far from the “snug and comfortable private yacht” the company advertised. Early flights were considered so hazardous that flight attendants were required to be registered nurses, and the in-flight entertainment involved staring at US souvenir map denoting landmarks one might glimpse through the plane’s small windows.

“I flew [from New York] to Hawaii for my honeymoon and back,” a TWA old-timer recalled at the Dec. 15 groundbreaking ceremony for a new TWA-themed hotel at New York’s JFK airport. “Then the only form of entertainment was watching the propellers spin. [My wife] kept on asking, ‘Are we there yet?'”

Image for article titled The fastest route across the US once took two days and 10 layovers
Image: Flying Across America/TWA Archives

Cross-country travelers had to endure layovers until 1953, when the first regular direct flight service from New York to California debuted—the TWA’s 8-hour Super Constellation route. It would take 23 more years, and the invention of better jetliners, for coast-to-coast travel time to shrink to the five hours we know today.

In a nod to its history, one of the original Lindbergh transcontinental planes will be on display at the TWA Hotel when it opens in 2018. Laughed another former TWA employee at the Dec. 15 event, ”I still have that shirt that says ‘Coast to Coast in 48 Hours.'”

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