Pan American World Airways, or "Pan Am," was the United States' principal international air carrier for much of its lifetime—first flying Key West, Florida-Havana, Cuba mail flights in 1927. By the 1950s, Pan Am offered "around the world" service and its brand was as familiar abroad as Coca-Cola. In the Jet Age, Pan Am faced ever-growing competition from increased international travel and deregulation of the U.S. domestic air market in the late 1970s/early 1980s. By the late 1980s, Pan Am was increasingly competing with airlines expanding into foreign markets from extensive domestic routes. Pan Am ended in bankruptcy in December 1991.
Delta purchased and began operating Pan Am's trans-Atlantic routes on November 1, 1991—becoming overnight a major provider of service across the Atlantic. The acquisition included Pan Am's New York-Europe routes, its Frankfurt and New York-JFK hub operations, and Miami-London and Detroit-London routes. The London operations were from Gatwick airport only. (Pan Am had earlier sold its London-Heathrow access and trans-Pacific routes to United Airlines).
These were historic routes. Pan Am had been the first airline to offer scheduled service across the Atlantic in 1939. Other early routes to Germany and Western Europe were initially launched in 1946, by American Overseas Airlines (AOA), the trans-Atlantic division of American Airlines. Pan Am had purchased AOA from American on September 25, 1950, acquiring service to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Copenhagen, Denmark; Helsinki, Finland; and Berlin, Frankfurt and other cities in Germany.
Delta's transaction with Pan Am also involved various related assets, including lease and purchase agreements for Airbus 310-200 aircraft and purchase of the Pan Am Shuttle, with its frequent service between New York-Boston and New York-Washington, DC. Delta Shuttle operations started on September 1, 1991.
Pan Am: First in the Industry
First U.S. airline to operate a permanent international air service, from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba.
First U.S. airline to operate land aircraft over water on a regularly-scheduled basis.
First U.S. airline to develop an airport and airways traffic control system. First U.S. airline to carry emergency life-saving equipment. First U.S. airline to order and purchase aircraft built to its own specifications, with the Sikorsky S-38 flying boat.
First U.S. airline to offer international air express service.
First U.S. airline to develop and operate four-engine flying boats, Pan Am's first Clippers—its Sikorsky S-40 fleet.
First airline to sell all-expense international air tour packages.
First airline to develop and employ long-range weather forecasting. First airline to operate scheduled trans-Pacific passenger and mail service
First airline to operate scheduled trans-Atlantic mail and passenger services.
First airline to complete a round-the-world flight. First airline to fly internationally with all-cargo aircraft.
First airline to operate a scheduled round-the-world service.
First airline to provide coach-class service outside the continental U.S.
Pan Am is the launch customer for Boeing's luxurious, long-range 377 Stratocruiser.
Pan Am's Boeing 707 Clipper America flies the first scheduled trans-Atlantic service of U.S.-built jets.
First airline to develop a global computer reservations system, named PANAMAC.
First airline to relay in-flight messages via satellite.
First airline to make a fully automatic approach and landing in scheduled service.
First airline to operate the Boeing 747 widebody jet in regularly scheduled service.
One of the first airlines to introduce a new class of service for business and full-fare economy passengers—Pan Am's "Clipper Class."
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