Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
Today, when we’re all staying close to home and airlines are struggling, it’s hard to imagine the early 1930s when the airlines were just beginning to circle the globe and travel opportunities seemed endless.
Prior to the dawn of commercial air travel, it took weeks to travel across the Atlantic from New York to Europe by ocean liner. That all changed when Pan American Airways came on the scene, reducing the travel time to hours.
From 1927 – 1991 Pan American Airways was America’s largest air carrier, taking travelers on around the world adventures to far-flung, exotic spots.
It started out delivering mail between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba.
The airline soon began offering passenger service and expanded its route to include destinations in Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and points beyond.
Propelled with backing from shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and Union Pacific Railroad heir and governor of New York Averell Harriman, the sky was the limit. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh helped negotiate foreign landing rights.
In the early years its Pan Am Clipper planes – borrowing their name from 19th century clipper sailing ships – were the only passenger planes capable of intercontinental travel…and tickets cost up to $20,000. World leaders, businesspeople, and adventurers alike would come aboard and put themselves into the hands of “the world’s most experienced airline.”
With colorful ads and billboards showing exotic locales, eventually the entire world was just a flight away and everyday travelers could go.
SurfWriter Girl Sunny Magdaug knew Brad Dressler, Pan Am’s top public relations executive, who was her mentor, and learned how he helped shape the iconic airline’s image from the 1960s – 1980s with stories and ads conveying glamor and adventure.
Even though Pan Am ceased operations, it paved the way for the airlines who now face today’s challenges. When times are better, SurfWriter Girls hope that airlines can connect the world again and soar to new heights.
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