Pan Am – the TV Series
“Our stewardesses know their way around the world better than most people know their way around the block.”
Pan American World Airways was the premier flag carrier of the US. It’s humble beginnings in 1927 began as an air mail and passenger service that operated between Key West and Havana.
The first flights to Europe from Norfolk, via Bermuda and the Azores, began in 1937 using a fleet of seaplanes. The “clippers” are the flying boats that were made famous in early travel posters for the company.
Moving into Asia
1935 was an historic year, not only for the airline but for the world. After negotiating rights to land at Pearl Harbor, Midway Island, Wake Island Guan and Manila, Pan Am won a government contract to fly mail from San Francisco to the islands and Canton, China.
The first commercial flight carrying mail from San Francisco to Manila was launched amid massive media fanfare on November 22, 1935. The five-leg, 8,000-mile flight arrived in the Philippine capital one week later, on November 29, and returned to San Francisco on December 6, cutting the time of travel over that by steamship by more than a full month.
The first passenger flight over this route left San Francisco a year later. Sending a letter airmail at the time cost 25 cents. Flying as a passenger was a different story. Round trip airfare from San Francisco to Hong Kong was $1,710 in 1837. Today that same trip would cost $26,376!
747 to London
Pan Am’s 747′s were the most fun to fly on. The spacious jetliner typically had 58 first-class seats and 304 economy seats.
On a trip from London to New York my husband and our dear friends, the Blairs, flew Pan Am after spending a fun week in England.
On the trip from JFK to London we flew Air India. There were 5 people in first class. the four of us sat on the port side of the plane and one Indian man sat on the other side of the cabin. I don’t know what the man had eaten before he got onto the plane, but we had to sit with a blanket over our faces the entire trip because he passed noxious gas the entire flight.
We chose Pan Am for the return trip home and were glad we did. As we made our way onto the plane, the flight attendant asked us if we wanted to make a ‘reservation’ to have dinner in the upper deck lounge of the 747. You bet we did.
As I recall, there were only 6 or 8 seats configured like a dining room on the upper deck. We sat in 2 seats on each side of a table – facing each other, just like a restaurant.
It was a memorable meal – to say the least. Our dinner started with vodka and caviar. After a couple of vodka shots and a tasty salad, the hostess wheeled an entire prime rib roast down the isle on a cart. The flight attendant carved the meat to order and it was perfectly cooked. Once we all had all been served, the flight attendant pushed the cart, with the remaining roast, down the short isle, when suddenly the cart tipped over and the roast went flying down the stairs. Thank goodness no one was standing near the stairs on the lower deck.
As dinner continued, I looked across the table at my friend Susan and each time she would try to eat her peas, they would roll off her fork, onto the floor. Guess she had one too many vodka shooters. Anyway, it was a meal none of us would ever forget.
Sadly, Pan Am ceased operations on December 4, 1991. There were many reasons, the economy, competition, terrorist attacks on the US flag carrier. It was a kinder, gentler time that we can only reminisce about – until now.
Pan Am is making a comeback – sort of. ABC has officially ordered a pilot called Pan Am, a prime-time celebration of stewardess life in the 1960’s. According to the Hollywood Reporter:
The show will be based on the experiences of executive producer Nancy Hult Ganis, who was a flight attendant on the airline for seven years.
So far, Christina Ricci is in talks to play a lead role and Australian actress Margot Robbie will make her American debut as one of the sexy stewardesses.
In the meantime, enjoy Lenny Kravitz – Fly Away: