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Pan Am

Pan American World Airways, or "Pan Am," was principal international air carrier of the United States for most of its lifetime—first flying mail between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, 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 growing challenges as international travel grew and U.S. airlines deregulated in the late 1970s. Pan Am increasingly competed with airlines expanding into foreign markets from extensive domestic routes. Attempting to quickly create a domestic system, Pan Am acquired Miami-based National Airlines in 1980. Pan Am ended in bankruptcy in December 1991.

Delta Acquires Pan Am Transatlantic Routes

Delta began operating Pan Am's transatlantic routes on November 1, 1991, becoming overnight a major carrier across the Atlantic. Acquisitions included Pan Am's New York to Europe routes, hub operations at Frankfurt and New York-JFK, and Pan Am's Miami—London and Detroit—London routes. London operations were from Gatwick airport only; Pan Am had earlier sold its London-Heathrow access and transpacific routes to United Airlines.

These were historic routes. Pan Am was first with scheduled service across the Atlantic in 1939. Early routes to Germany and Western Europe dated to 1946 and American Overseas Airlines (AOA), the transatlantic 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 also acquired various related assets from Pan Am, including lease and purchase agreements for Airbus 310-200 aircraft and purchase of Pan Am Shuttle. The Shuttle offered frequent service between New York—Boston and New York—Washington, DC. Delta Shuttle operations started on September 1, 1991.

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Pan Am's Transatlantic Fleet


Boeing 314 1939-1946
Boeing 307 Stratoliner Used for Air Transport Command flights during World War II
Douglas DC-4 Introduced 1946
Lockheed Constellation (049, 749) Introduced 1946
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser 1949-1960. First nonstop commercial transatlantic service on Nov. 27, 1954 (9 hours, 42 minutes)
Douglas DC-6 (-6A, -6B) Introduced 1952
Douglas DC-7 (-7B, -7C) Introduced 1956
Boeing 707 1958-1981
Douglas DC-8 1960-1970
Boeing 747 1970-1991
Douglas DC-10-30 1980-1985
Lockheed L-1011-500 1980-1986
Airbus A310 1985-1991

 

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Pan Am: First in the Industry

1927 - First U.S. airline to operate permanent international air service (Key West, Florida—Havana, Cuba). First U.S. airline to operate land aircraft over water on a regular schedule.


1928 - 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.

1930 - First U.S. airline to offer international air express service.

1931 - First U.S. airline to develop and operate four-engine flying boats—Pan Am's first Clippers, its Sikorsky S-40 fleet.

1932 - First airline to sell all-expense international air tour packages.

1935 - First airline to develop and employ long-range weather forecasting. First airline to operate scheduled transpacific passenger and mail service.

1939 - First airline with scheduled transatlantic mail and passenger services.

1942 - First airline to complete a round-the-world flight. First airline to fly internationally with all-cargo aircraft.

1947 - First airline to operate a scheduled round-the-world service.

1948 - First airline to provide coach-class service outside the continental U.S.

1949 - Pan Am is the launch customer for Boeing's long-range 377 Stratocruiser.

1958 - Pan Am's Boeing 707 Clipper America flies the first scheduled transatlantic service of a U.S.-built jet.

1962 - First airline to develop a global computer reservations system, named PANAMAC.

1964 - First airline to relay in-flight messages via satellite.

1967 - First airline to make a fully automatic approach and landing in scheduled service.

1970 - First airline to fly the Boeing 747 widebody jet in scheduled service.

1978 - One of the first airlines to introduce a new class of service for business and full-fare economy passengers, called Pan Am's "Clipper Class."

More Information

  • YouTube: 1958 film 6 1/2 Magic Hours shows early Pan Am transatlantic jet service from New York to London with Boeing 707.
  • University of Miami Library: Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records. The corporate archives of Pan Am, holding extensive collections of photo and subject files, Charles A. Lindbergh letters, advertising, and more.
  • The Pan Am Historical Foundation: Educational foundation established to preserve and promote the legacy of Pan American World Airways in 1992. Online resources include aircraft fleet lists; timelines; employee first-hand accounts of special events; galleries of audio, video, photos and ads; and links to related Pan Am sites.
  • Airline Timetable Images: Pan Am timetables (both covers-only and complete issues) and baggage labels
  • Everything Pan Am: Images, dates and other information about Pan Am collectibles, including an extensive catering section.
  • Pan Am Clippers: Flying boat history, merchandise and directory of related Pan Am history and aircraft sites.
  • National Sundowners: National Airlines employee memories and memorabilia from the airlines' founding in 1937 to the merger with Pan Am in 1980.
  • Book: Pan Am: An Airline and Its Aircraft, by R.E.G. Davies, 1987. Includes Pan Am aircraft photos, route maps and fleet lists.
  • Book: Pan Am: An Aviation Legend, by Barnaby Conrad III, 1999. Lavishly illustrated coffee table book filled with Pan Am photos and advertising.
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