Business Traveller

The golden age of aviation?


It is 1963. Transatlantic flights are a commercial possibility for the affluent and Pan Am is the biggest name in the business. Their pilots, mostly war trained, are rock stars. Passengers fly with ebullient style; dress to impress, eat restaurant-quality food, drink good liquor and have their cigarettes lit by charming, trilingual young ladies.

The airing of the ABC television series “Pan Am” is dosing older audiences with Jet Set nostalgia, and raising the eyebrows of younger ones with its scenes of air stewardesses undergoing preflight weigh-ins, grooming inspections and girdle checks (a bottom slap).

As the show’s star, Christina Ricci – she plays a purser – said in a media interview: “[the girls] had to be these intelligent, gracious hostesses who could be… emissaries in a way and I don’t think I realised that and I think that a lot of people won’t realise that until they watch the show.”

Pan Am flight attendants were all of a certain weight (between 110 and 135 pounds), health (excellent) and personality (extremely charming)… and single. Though they looked the part, modern audiences may squirm at the sexism and gender discrimination on display.