Led Zeppelin was never a band terribly fond of air travel. John Bonham had gone through such a crippling fear of flying he would not board a plane unless he had a drink first. The rest of the band however disliked travelling long-distances on buses and waiting for hours at air terminals for commercial flights.
During the 1972 tour and in the early part of the 1973 tour the band had hired a small private Falon Jet to transport its members from city to city, but these aircraft are comparatively light and susceptible to air turbulence. After performing a show at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco in 1973 the band encountered bad turbulence on a flight back to Los Angeles. As a result, the band's manager Peter Grant gave Richard Cole the orders, 'Get us something so big it won't seem like flying at all.' Cole resolved to hire The Starship for the remainder of the tour.
The band's introduction to The Starship happened to take place at Chicago's O'Hare airport, right near Hugh Hefner's plane. One reporter asked Peter Grant, 'How does your plane compare to Mr Hefner's?' Grant curtly replied, 'The Starship makes Hefner's plane look like a dinky toy.' Not only was The Starship a gigantic Boeing 720B forty-seater; it also held a thirty foot long sofa parallel to a bar, a television set, a video player, a den with a low couch and pillows on the floor, a bedroom with a white fur bedspread and shower room, and a Thomas organ. As Robert Plant said on his first Starship flight, 'It's like a floating palace.'
The plane was staffed by two stewardesses, Susie (an attractive eighteen-year-old blonde), and Bianca (a twenty-two year old with a dark complexion and a sense of humour).
As well as for the remainder of the 1973 US tour, The Starship was also used for Led Zeppelin's 1975 US tour. By then John Bonham enjoyed occupying the co-pilot seat. 'He flew us all the way froom New York to LA once,' Peter Grant told a startled fellow traveller on one tour, 'He ain't got a license, mind...'