Come fly with them: Upcoming ‘Pan Am’ TV show capitalizes on ‘60s airline style

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

Pan Am is coming back -- to the airwaves, that is.

Pan American Airways, the giant airline that virtually defined air travel from 1927 until its demise in 1991, will get a “Mad Men"-like treatment on a TV show set to debut on ABC in the fall. The “Pan Am” show, which is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. on Sundays and stars Christina Ricci, will follow the lives of stewardesses circa 1963 and their bouts with “passion, jealousy and espionage” at 30,000 feet, according to the show’s Facebook page.

PHOTOS: Retro flight attendant outfits in “Style in the Aisle”

Drama aside, it likely will be the glamour of the golden age of air travel and those snug blue Pan Am uniforms that will seduce viewers to tune in -- again, taking a page from AMC’s “Mad Men’s” fashion-driven portrayal of Madison Avenue in the same period.

Back then, stewardesses generally couldn’t be married or have children and had to meet strict weight standards, but that doesn’t mean they lacked substance, said Dan Hagedorn, senior curator at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Although their sexy looks were intended to sell seats, they also had to have the right stuff to qualify as flight crew.


“They had to have their hair perfectly coiffed, makeup just so ... and they were there to look after the safety of passengers from the very beginning,” Hagedorn said. "... The white gloves came off when emergencies happened.”

Flight attendants have gotten short shrift in the aviation museum world, he said. The Museum of Flight realized this when it launched an exhibition in 2008 called “Style in the Aisle” that featured uniforms and memorabilia documenting the role flight attendants have played for more than 80 years.

The exhibition was so successful that the museum brought it back this year, with new items donated by former and current flight-crew members. The current exhibit ends May 30, but Hagedorn doesn’t rule out a third incarnation -- particularly if shows such as “Pan Am” spark renewed interest.

And Pan Am fans, take note: The logo and products live on. So you can get a vintage-style flight bag, passport holder or even cufflinks before the first episode airs in the fall.