By Kathy Strong
December 3, 2016
If you long for the nostalgic days of flying when passengers dressed up, wined and dined and enjoyed plenty of personal service, then now you can take a “fantasy flight” to relive a romantic era when flying was one of the best parts of your vacation. Before the long security lines, cramped seats and packaged food, airline travel was an experience, especially flying first class on Pan Am in the 1970s when comfort and service were a given. Pan Am’s famous jet-age blue globe logo has remained in our culture long after the airline’s demise in 1991 as a symbol of American belief in economic, technological and social progress.
Now you can capture that nostalgia on the Pan Am Experience, replicating those glory days of airline travel, minus the actual lift-off, for a few hours. The newest Los Angeles happening is all tinsel-town inspired, accomplished with authenticity as only Hollywood can conjure. The Pan Am Experience is the creation of Air Hollywood, a Los Angeles-based motion picture studio specializing in aviation-themed filming, and film and television aviation prop master Anthony Toth. The studio and Toth collaborated to create an experience that would recapture the magic of flying onboard a luxurious Pan Am 747 all within Air Hollywood’s unique aviation-themed film studio which has played host to many of your favorite television and movie airline scenes.
The movie studio has been outfitted with a painstakingly exact interior replica of a Pan Am Boeing 747, including the First & Clipper Class Cabins and Pan Am’s iconic spiral staircase Upper Deck. Toth searched every corner of the world for props that would make every detail true to the early 1970’s flights, from the real Pan Am décor and china to the famous blue uniforms and hats worn by the stewardesses—before the term “flight attendant” was widely adopted in the industry.
The nostalgic flight is particularly aimed at those who covet everything midcentury—from the Mad Men era to style, as well as those of us who long to recapture some airline memories of the good old days of flying.
Your Imaginary Flight
The “stage” is set for your “fantasy flight,” so time to star in your own airline “movie” for an evening. The Pan Am Experience happens on just certain dates each month, so make your reservation soon. Only about two dozen “passengers” board the replica plane, choosing to “fly” either First Class (Upper Deck or Main Deck) or Clipper Cabin. The experience begins appropriately at the check-in counter when the agent issues you an authentic-looking Pan Am boarding pass. The Clipper Club waiting area is also part of the experience, decked out in vintage Pan Am travel posters and authentic memorabilia.
Happily, this flight is never delayed by weather or mechanics. The flight crew arrives on cue, and a bevy of stewardesses, played by local starlets, in their uniforms and travel cases gather outside and proceed to the plane to greet passengers who are often dressed in 70’s garb, hats and ties. Seats are taken either downstairs or up the winding staircase in the First Class lounge.
After the humorous pre-flight announcement when passengers are advised that the airplane bathrooms don’t actually work on this movie-set plane, experience-goers settle in for a period fashion show, a documentary playing on the history of Pan Am and an in-flight trivia contest based on Pan Am lore that yields winners gifts of Pan Am flight bags. Next, a multi-course meal and cocktails are graciously served on Pan Am china and glassware with stewardesses ceremoniously carving the Chateaubriand steak from a cart.
Capturing nostalgia has a price—almost as much as an airline ticket, but for the uniqueness of the evening event the value is worthless to many who have taken the “flight” since the Pan Am Experience opened this year. It might just make the perfect gift for someone special or for celebrating an occasion.
The Pan Am “book experience”
Even if you don’t opt for the fantasy flight, you can sop up bountiful nostalgia for Pan Am with a new book, Pan Am: History, Design & Identity by Matthias C. Huhne which chronicles the captivating story of an airline that refused to consider anything impossible and single-handedly revolutionized air travel.
The book takes readers on a journey into the daring world of early air travel, follows the first crossings of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, investigates commercial aviation during World War II and brings to life the thrill of the jet age when a plane ticket started to become affordable for the general public and mass tourism took off.
“While my purpose in initiating this project was to document and analyze corporate identity aspects of Pan Am,” said Huhne, “I still recall very well the awe I felt when, as a young German boy in 1974, I entered a Pan Am Boeing 747 on my first flight to the United states. Everything seemed so perfect. The huge aircraft and the friendly, beautiful flight attendants appeared like a showpiece of the American Dream, flying around the globe; a gentle demonstration of the values and opportunities brought about by freedom and entrepreneurship.”
Pan Am: History, Design & Identity also traces an important chapter in the cultural history of 20th century America and in the history of travel – from the 1920s when passenger flight was very prestigious and exclusive to the time of mass tourism when flying became the most conventional and most important means of long distance travel. Huhne’s book tells us that Pan Am developed into the world’s best-known airline with astonishing speed. Its rapid rise was accompanied by proficient publicity and advertising conveying its services and many achievements.
The large format, 432-page book is published by Callisto and includes hundreds of photographs and artwork that present an overview of Pan Am’s entire history. “It is my sincere hope that this book treats Pan Am’s legacy with the respect it deserves and, above all, that it keeps alive an active interest in this exceptional company,” added Huhne.
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If you go
The Pan Am Experience