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?”