Most long time readers know that my family heritage with aviation runs a few generations. My granddad worked for Pan-Am way back when and my uncle was a pilot (not with Pan-Am) for many years. With parents living all over the world I always traveled. I loved hearing stories of my mom’s Pan-Am flying experiences from “back in the day”! So when Noah Mark (a frequent contributor here on the blog) told me about the adventure he was going on I really wanted to go, but I was in Sweden for much of May this year so it did not work. But after seeing his guest post, I think I need to book time to go one day! – René
As a frequent flyer and aspiring #AVGeek I cannot tell you exactly when I first heard about The Pan-Am Experience at Air Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, however once I discovered it, I knew that I would have to go at some point.
Pan American World Airways, later Pan American Airways and known affectionately as Pan-Am, began in the late 1920’s. In its heyday in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Pan Am carried 6.7 million passengers to 86 countries, with many popular routes between New York, Europe, South America and the Caribbean. Pan Am only served international destinations aside from Hawaii to the US Mainland. Pan-Am later purchased National Airlines and operated their domestic network.
Sadly, I never was able to fly on a Pan-Am Jet although I remember my father telling me stories about flying TWA and Pan-Am to Asia and Europe, and always wondered what it would be like.
Enter The Pan-Am Experience, an insanely indulgent, complete recreation of the golden age of travel. For nearly six hours you are “transported” back to the 1970’s, all the nuances of travel, along with the elegance, pampering, and quality are all there, on a flight to nowhere.
Air Hollywood is an amazing place itself. An aviation themed studio in Pacoima, CA, a Los Angeles suburb dedicated to airplane, airport and TSA interiors for filming on television and movies.
They have filmed scenes from Lost, Mad Men, and more. They even have fantastic programs such as Fearless Flight and Open Sky For Autism both designed to educate and ease nervous travelers before they take a trip.
But the crème de la crème for us #AVGeeks has to be The Pan-Am Experience. For nearly six hours on the weekend, Air Hollywood hosts a mock flight onboard a completely refurbished Pan-Am 747 First Class interior, complete with lower and Upper Decks, and even nearly a dozen rows of Clipper Class (Pan-Am’s business class product). With service staff all dressed up as stewardesses and pilots.
Upon our arrival the big LAX signage was out, as was The Pan Am Logo and a red carpet. We knew this would be something special. Once we entered into the Studio we were instantly “transported” to the 1970’s and found ourselves at the Clipper Class Lounge. It was only a few moments before all of us had a glass of champagne in our hand (including Rene’s fellow blogger MJ on Travel). The clipper class lounge doubled also as a museum of Pan-Am relics, bags, uniforms, china, memorabilia, tickets, full seats to sit in, and more on display.
Also in the clipper class lounge, a Pan-Am Check-in Counter where we each checked in and received a custom boarding pass envelope and bag tags as seen in the first shot above.
After our private group of 32 enjoyed mingling and chatting, it was time to board the aircraft. The 747 featured a total of 32 First Class seats, 18 Main Deck, and 14 Upper Deck. The Main Deck featured Pam-Am Sleeperette seats, i.e. actual airline seats. The Upper Deck, as it was back in the day, was set up as a dining room with tables for four. I chose the upper deck for myself, it has more of a social environment, and a great choice if you attend this event with one or more people.
After everyone sat in their seats, the crew gave us a hilarious safety demonstration, and more alcohol was served. The attention to detail was just amazing; everything from the cabin to coasters, drink stirrers, even the ash trays proudly displayed the Pan-Am Brand.
For dinner service I started with a Pan-Am classic first course, tomato and mozzarella drizzled with a pesto glaze, fresh and fantastic. For the main course a Pan-Am staple, of Chateaubriand carved from the trolley, along with roasted vegetables, remarkable! It’s crazy to think that air travel has gone from carved meats in the sky, to Snack Baskets (and be sure to bring your own bread plate!).
The main course was followed up by a fruit, cheese and port course, followed by a dessert trolley with a large selection of aperitifs. What an amazing dinner along with a “show like no other”.
Throughout our flight, our stewardesses (yes, you can call them that here!) put on a Pan-Am fashion show, as we saw them model different Pan-Am uniforms throughout the years; music of the era and announcements added an amazing ambiance to this experience.
After our Pan-Am flight, the Air Hollywood staff took us for a tour of the facility. It’s amazing how many aircraft interiors they have for filming. Even our Pan-Am flight attendants came along for the tour and had a little fun with us.
So there you have it. If there was an #AVGeek amusement park, this would be the main attraction. At the end of the day, I’m not sure any of the words I have written or photos and videos you have seen will be able to convey the amazing evening I had traveling back in time to when travel was luxurious, fashionable and fantastic. You will just have to experience it yourself, if you’re an AVGeek, a Points and Miles enthusiast, or somewhere in between, you’ll be glad you did! The event sells out very quickly so I suggest you subscribe to Air-Hollywood’s mailing list so you can find out when the next bookings open up. – Noah Mark
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