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Breaking News?: Delta acquires Pan-Am!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My love of all things aviation goes back to my first flight as an infant-in-arms at 12 months of age. There have been many in my family who have worked in the field of aviation from my grandfather (in Miami who worked for Pan Am for years) to my uncle who was a pilot for many many years and even my brother in law! I had early hopes of a career in aviation as well, but somehow dyslexia and altimeters don’t always make nice together (that would be such a fun announcement to make over the PA).

My grandfather worked for Pan American World Airways. The trans-Atlantic routes purchased by Delta, this month in 1991, represented the largest acquisition of flight routes in airline history at the time, and these were historic routes. Pan Am had been the first airline to offer scheduled service across the Atlantic in 1939.

Pan Am enjoyed a lot of firsts.

  • 1927 – First U.S. airline to operate land aircraft over water on a regularly-scheduled basis.
  • 1947 – First airline to operate a scheduled round-the-world service.
  • 1962 – First airline to develop a global computer reservations system, named PANAMAC.
  • 1970 – First airline to operate the Boeing 747 widebody jet in regularly scheduled service.

Interestingly, Pan Am had previously sold its trans-Pacific routes to United. Since Pan Am was, for much of its lifetime, the principal international air carrier for the US, it was as familiar a brand abroad as Coca-Cola.

Did you ever get to fly Pan Am? Any fun stories to share? Please do so in the comment section below if you do – René


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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Oh man, used to fly their 747 SP back and forth from JFK to DHA(now a military base)in Saudi Arabia.
    Also flew their first 747 into SJU(also from JFK) in Feb 1971 as a kid. Even flew F!! Upstairs was strictly a lounge with a huge round sofa. Nothing but a small door to the cockpit! Talk about the old school romanticism of flying.

  2. Never did fly Pan Am back in the day as TWA was always the local airline of choice but PanAm did operate out of Mid American airport n the STL area a few years ago as a shell of its former self. That was short lived.

  3. First trip to the US in 1987. What would have been MUC – LHR – SFO turned into MUC – LHR (2h late, can’t remember the plane but it was Pan Am), LHR – DTW (in Business!!! For a family of 5! On a Pan Am A310 I believe), DTW – MSP (on a NW DC10), MSP – SFO (on a NW 757).

  4. I used to work in the old Soviet Union and flew there many times on Pan Am. I remember how cool it was to be in their space age “Jetsons” terminal at JFK and think the world amazingly small. I was quite sad when Pan Am went out of business as it felt like a era where overseas travel was exotic was disappearing and, given how commonplace my own children see it as, I guess it had.

  5. As a youngster in the 1970s, our family moved from New York to Rio de Janeiro (then back to New York and then to Caracas). We flew on PanAm a lot between South America and the states; Eastern Airlines also.

    I remember at the time the JFK WorldPort was the most advanced modern airport terminal in the world (and now soon to be demolished which will be bittersweet to me). Flying back then was of course very different then today. As a kid the flight attendants always made sure you were entertained. I was invited into the cockpit multiple times.

    Watching movies on a plane back then was the height of luxury even though it was only faintly projected onto a single screen at the front of the cabin and sound came through “headphones” which were really just tubes; on PanAm the “headphones” were of course Pan Am Sky Blue in color.

    I thought it was cool that each plane had a name “Clipper Constellation” and I remember how excited I was when I got to ride in the same plane twice (although I can’t remember the name unfortunately).

    Never got to fly in First Class but I do remember once our dad getting us upgraded into “Clipper Class” and I stole the salt and pepper shakers because I thought they were so cool (sadly I’m sure they got thrown away some time over the years).

    So sad that such a great airline and great American brand could have been so mismanaged in the final years.
    Although younger people probably don’t realize it but Pan Am disappearing as quickly as it did would be similar today if Apple or Microsoft just disappeared, sold off in chunks to the highest bidder.

    “Say Hello to the World, Say Hello to PanAm”

  6. smittytabb Reply

    Yes, was fortunate to fly them! Flew on the 747 and did quite a few different international routes as I was flying on what was then an around the world mileage ticket. Started in Auckland, NZ and continued flying west (had to fly in same direction, with I think one exception) for a certain number of stops (no longer remember how many). Wish I had taken photos of the planes and kept the boarding passes! Two girlfriends and I traveled on this ticket until we hit Rome and then traveled via Eurail and Brit Rail passes. And to think, all those miles flown before frequent flyer mile programs! This was in the late 1970s.

  7. Flew Pan Am for our honeymoon LAX-HNL and ITO-LAX first class 747. The upstairs was only a lounge and no one was manning the bar so my husband rummaged around in the bar and found enough to make drinks for us. All the time, the door to the cockpit was wide open. We stood at that doorway and looked in on all the switches and electronic displays with the approval of the flight crew.
    We also flew in the mid 80’s LAX-BOS-LAX on a 747 twice. The second time, we had booked coach. Then in the mail, we received a $25 voucher for each of us to redeem for Business Class. So we upgraded to Business Class for only $25 back then.

  8. My very first flight was from LAX to LHR via Greenland for a fuel stop. I bought a candy bar in the cafe at Greenland, and it froze during the time it took for me to reboard the plane.

  9. Flew ORD-GIG about a month before they went kaput. One of the best flight experienes I ever had – all in coach. Dinner served on real china. And to top it off they were running a triple miles promo. Ahhh, the good ole days…

  10. I worked for National in Miami in the 70’s and 80’s. National was good airlines that Management and Labor had battles that included a year and half strike in 1969. I was a union member and the National survived by reaching contracts that allowed both side to make money.
    Pan Am bought National. It was the Pan Am union that directly caused the demise. The union demands were onerous and never allowed Pan Am to survive. Management was just as much to blame because they allowed it to happen. I resigned in 1985 because the whole Pan Am situation was unbearable. I tell people that Pan Am Management and Labor got exactly what they deserved. Eastern was the same.
    Moral: A company must make money to survive! One side or the other must not be greedy!

  11. farsighted99 Reply

    my first flight ever was on a Pan Am Clipper. I was about 9 years old, flying from Tokyo to Hawaii (got to Tokyo on a military boat)… I still have the plastic wings that the stewardess gave me on that flight. I remember the thrill of flying into Honolulu and seeing the city lights on out the window.

    Really sad that Pan Am went out of business; I flew them many times later on over the years. And their stewardesses always looked sharp and stylish… Those were the days.

  12. Pan Am is (was) the only airline I never had any issues/problems when flying. Having lived in Europe for a long time, I had a chance to fly them more than once.

  13. not only did I fly them early in my career, I met and married a Pan Am flight attendant. Shortly after, they went out of business 🙁

  14. Richard Bost Reply

    Actually I started flying Delta regular because I was flying to Europe two and a half times year. It’s what made me a Medallion.

    Sadly, when the AC had Ex-Pam Am flight attendants, the service was significantly worse, as in, they would disappear behind their tented seats for the duration of the flight.

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