Yes kids, Pan Am was a real airline. In fact, it was the largest international carrier based in the United States. It was also an innovator - one of the first airlines to upgrade its fleet to jet aircraft, the first to purchase and fly Boeing 747 jumbo jets and the first to computerize its reservation system - in 1964!
Pan Am's long running slogan was "The World's Most Experienced Airline" and even flying economy on this airline was a first class experience compared to today's Greyhound in-the-sky standards. So what the heck happened?
Talk about your deluge of bad breaks!
- The 1973 fuel shortage
- Increased costs and ticket prices
- Reduced demand for air travel due to costs
- Over-investment in new Boeing 747s
- Unwise acquisition of National Airlines
- Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 which awarded international routes to domestic airlines, but prevented Pan Am from gaining domestic routes
- Terrorist attacks including Pan Am Flight 73 which was hijacked in Pakistan and resulted in 20 fatalities, and the infamous Flight 173 that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland and killed 270 persons.
Still, those old enough to have flown a Pan Am Clipper must think "Those were the good old days." Those born too late must wonder, "How come air travel in the sixties didn't suck like it does today?"
All this brand equity and positive PR comes 20 years too late to save the airline, but the Pan Am name, globe logo, stewardess uniforms and other brand elements live on...or at least until the show is canceled.