De­li­cious Air­line Food. Re­ally.

Now serv­ing on a flight to nowhere.

Air & Space Smithsonian - - Front Page - BY PHIL SCOTT

Served on a 747 sit­ting in a ware­house in—where else?—l.a.

It also sounds like the kind of deal Tom Sawyer of­fered his friends to get them to white­wash his fence, but it’s called The Pan Am Ex­pe­ri­ence, cooked up by Pan Am col­lec­tor An­thony Toth.

“As a young child I flew on a Pan Am 747 and I in­stantly be­came ob­sessed,” says Toth, an air­line ex­ec­u­tive. “Any­thing you can name, I have.” His col­lec­tion, which in­cludes uni­forms, carts, dishes, linen, glasses, sil­ver­ware, signs, seats, posters, gal­ley equip­ment, head­sets, pil­lows, and any other piece imag­in­able, num­bers be­tween 3,000 and 4,000 items. The largest by far is the in­te­rior of a Boe­ing 747-200; built of struc­tures taken from desert bone­yards where Toth is, he says, “a fre­quent shop­per”; re­assem­bled at a rented ware­house; and per­son­ally out­fit­ted to mid-1970s Pan Am splen­dor.

Thou­sands share Toth’s Pan Am ob­ses­sion. “Pan Am was the air­line. It set the stan­dard for ser­vice,” says Rob Shal­houb, Chief Rev­enue Of­fi­cer of Air Hol­ly­wood (when an air­liner in­te­rior shows up in a movie or TV episode, dol­lars to dough­nuts it was shot at Air Hol­ly­wood). “It was at another level. Ev­ery­thing about it was so well-or­ches­trated.”

“Be­tween any city pairs there were prob­a­bly two choices,” ex­plains Toth. In the pre-dereg­u­la­tion era, “they couldn’t set prices [a ticket from LA to New York cost $2,450 in to­day’s dol­lars], so they were at­tract­ing pas­sen­gers by how great the ex­pe­ri­ence was.” The ex­pe­ri­ence was mem­o­rable for the em­ploy­ees too.

“You got star treat­ment when you worked for Pan Am,” says Ng, who was a Pan Am flight at­ten­dant from 1972 to 1986. “It was like a paid va­ca­tion. We

FOR HER BIRTH­DAY in Oc­to­ber, May Gin Ng and hus­band Roger Lee flew from San Fran­cisco to Los An­ge­les to dine on air­line food in­side a sta­tion­ary Boe­ing 747. “It was the best birth­day present I have re­ceived in many years,” she gushes.

got to stay in the best hotels.” But in the late 1970s dereg­u­la­tion opened routes to more air­lines, and com­pe­ti­tion forced Pan Am to slice fares to the bone. Hem­or­rhag­ing cash, in 1986 Pan Am sold its Pacific di­vi­sion to United for $750 mil­lion. “Pan Am had too many flight at­ten­dants, so I had to join United,” says Ng. “It was hard for me to leave.”

Dereg­u­la­tion worked: Be­tween 1978 and 2009 the num­ber of pas­sen­gers in the U.S. rose from 275 mil­lion to 741 mil­lion, and a cross-coun­try ticket dropped to around $300. Air­lines crammed more pas­sen­gers in nar­rower seats with less legroom (see “The Re­cline of Civ­i­liza­tion,” p. 58). Pan Am went out of busi­ness in 1991, and by then, pas­sen­gers re­ported walls and doors patched with duct tape.

Ea­ger to re­mem­ber Pan Am’s hey­day, friends and fel­low air­line en­thu­si­asts begged Toth to open the fuse­lage for par­ties. A year and a half ago he and Air Hol­ly­wood, whose sound stage holds two Boe­ing 737s and one 767, reached a deal to set up the 747 in­side the sound­stage and charge for the ex­pe­ri­ence.

On the in­au­gu­ral flight, pas­sen­gers en­joyed piped-in jet noise and Goldfin­ger, star­ring Sean Con­nery as James Bond, while Toth wan­dered through the cabin in his gen­uine Pan Am pi­lot’s at­tire and stew­ardesses wear­ing orig­i­nal Su­per Jet Blue and Galaxy Gold uni­forms served a re­pro­duc­tion of Pan Am’s four-course menu on Pan Am linen, dishes, and sil­ver­ware. “It was like ‘Whoa, this is awe­some,’ ” says com­mer­cial in­sur­ance bro­ker Jane An­thony. “The air blow­ing, the sound, you would swear you were fly­ing. We were spend­ing $300 on an air­line meal, but it was more than that—it was be­ing in the en­vi­ron­ment sur­rounded by the Pan Am stuff.”

“There was enough ac­cu­racy that it brought back a lot of great mem­o­ries,” Ng says. “But we got our drinks in the glasses with the Pan Am logo, which is newer glass­ware. When I was hired the glass­ware had an ea­gle design in­stead of the Pan Am globe, and we were trained not to ‘drown the ea­gle.’ Forty-two years later I still re­mem­ber ‘Don’t drown the ea­gle.’ ”

There were a few other in­au­then­tic­i­ties: no safety briefing, no fresh flow­ers on the ta­bles, and no lug­gage stored in the over­head com­part­ments, be­cause no one brought lug­gage. “The only other thing that was not au­then­tic, which I was grate­ful for, was no smok­ing,” An­thony adds. As in the golden days, pas­sen­gers dressed for the oc­ca­sion. “Then that was the stan­dard,” says An­thony. “Now when I have to travel in a suit for a morn­ing ap­point­ment, it kills me. Back then they didn’t know any bet­ter.”

“I have been trav­el­ing for my job for more than 30 years,” she says. “It’s cramped, it’s de­layed, it’s the lit­tle things. But I’d rather have the money to spend on va­ca­tion than on the air­line ticket.” Still, An­thony wore a pen­cil skirt and car­ried a retro bag. She even teased her hair. Her friend and din­ner com­pan­ion Earle Keizer wore a suit.

“Then there was class,” say Keizer, who owns an IT com­pany. “We worked our tail off to be sit­ting up there in first class. It’s like fly­ing now is a com­mod­ity, and no longer a plea­sure.” With the first four dates al­ready sold out and more on the way, ru­mor has it that they may cram in more seats to ac­com­mo­date more din­ers. “If they knocked the price down a hun­dred they could get a lot more peo­ple,” says Keizer. “That’s for the back, not for first class.”

Stay still... in style: Though they don’t fly any­where, two re­tired Pan Am 747 fuse­lages were com­bined and ob­ses­sively re­stored. The in­te­rior is au­then­tic Pan Am.

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