I had written a while back that we had gotten tickets for the Pan Am Experience, an event where you relive the magic of flying onboard a luxurious Pan Am 747, complete with full meal service. We had made the reservation back in May (it’s very limited seating on a first-come, first-served basis. I’m usually really good at snagging those) and, truth be told, part of our vacation to the southwest was planned around attending the event. Well, that and seeing Hamilton (for the 5th time. Don’t hate me). It was a LONG 6 months, but October 21 finally rolled around and we were on our way!
We took an Uber to Air Hollywood, which is where the Pan Am Experience takes place. Air Hollywood is an aviation-themed studio with, “the most realistic, film-friendly airport and aircraft standing sets and props to the motion picture production industry.” They offer a variety of airport sets, jetways, passenger airplanes, private jets, cockpits and mobile sets for use by the film industry when there’s a need for aviation-related scenes or footage.
Air Hollywood also runs a Fearless Flight program, to help people who are afraid of flying, Open Sky for Autism, which is offered as a public service for those with special needs, and K9 Flight School, which is their air travel training program for service dogs. Regardless of how our experience was at the Pan Am Experience, I was already thoroughly impressed with the company just based on what they do to give back to the community.
Upon our arrival, we checked in and were given our “boarding passes” as well as some what I like to call “paper poop” – essentially, ephemera having to do with Pan Am and the Pan Am Experience. We were invited to wait in the Clipper Club pre-boarding area, which included a collection of vintage Pan Am memorabilia, costumes, bags and airline seats, as well as an open bar.
(Click on the individual photos to enlarge them)
After 30 minutes or so, we heard the announcement that our plane was oversold and they had a $50 voucher for anyone willing to give up their seat (remember, the night was set in the glory days of Pan Am, the 50s, 60s and 70s, when $50 was a pretty huge sum of money to almost anyone). No one was willing to give up their seat ;-), so we were invited to board, based on where we were seated.
Once we had our assigned seats, we were welcome to walk around the whole plane to look around. There were 3 seating areas:
- First Class – Upper Deck
- First Class – Main Deck
- Clipper Class – Dining Table Seat
Each section was incredible to visit, as the interiors of each cabin has been restored to Pan Am’s original cabin décor and branding elements. The background music in all of the sections was vintage early 60s to early 70s – Nat King Cole, the Carpenters, Etta James, Bobby Darrin, etc.
After being seated again, we took our tray tables out of our seats and were offered the adult beverage of our choice, as well as a packet of smoked almonds.
This was followed by the most unusual pre-flying safety video ever:
We were next introduced to Anthony Toth, who is the genius behind The Pan Am Experience. A lifelong Pan Am fan and well known megacollector in the AvGeek world, the story of how he developed the Pan Am Experience can be found here. A video starring Toth was played, in which he explained why and how his love for all things aviation, and especially Pan Am, came to be, as well as what we could expect this evening (i.e. all silverware, uniforms, etc. are all original Pan Am issue).
Once we were “in the air,” we were offered our choice of some reading material, in the form of some vintage magazines.
We also were given a copy of our upcoming menu:
Bread service was the first course and, in old-time airplane fashion, the bread, just as with all the other courses, was served from a short rolling cart:
Following the bread course, Anthony Toth came out to speak with us individually and in small groups.
For the next course, the appetizer, we had a choice of seared Mayan prawns with cocktail sauce or heirloom tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella with a pesto glace. I chose the tomatoes.
Following that appetizer, we were treated to a fashion show of some of the uniforms stewardesses (they weren’t airline attendants yet) wore in the 60s.
Next up was a bit of competitive fun – a contest of what some 3-letter airport codes were. I knew 3 of them, LOLOL!
Smoking was allowed on planes in the 60s and 70s, and this plane was no exception…so we were all offered a prop cigarette. Don’t we look sexy with our ciggie-butts? (Joe looks like he’s in the Mafia…)
The dinner course was next. We had a choice of roasted French cut chicken breast with peppercorn sauce, Chateaubriand tenderloin with demi-glace sauce or vegetarian pasta, accompanied by garden fresh vegetables and seasonal potatoes. Joe and I both had the steak and it was absolutely DELICIOUS!
Another fashion show was the next thing on the docket, this time with uniforms that were worn in the mid-late 60s.
We were then offered our choice of some nibbles from a cheese/crackers/fruit plate, along with a port digestif.
We also had a choice of adult beverages that were popular during the glory days of Pan Am (many of which remain popular today).
Next was the opportunity to purchase some scents from the 60s and 70s (Charlie, Pierre Cardin, Jovan, Brut, etc.), as well as some replica Pam An memorabilia such as bags, passport covers, etc.
The third and final fashion show quickly followed, now with uniforms from the 70s.
Dessert was a choice of fruit tart, chocolate cake or a mocha cake – I chose the chocolate cake and, once again, it was delicious!
At the end of the night, with completely full bellies, we were invited to go on a short tour of the AirHollywood studios, which was a very interesting peek at where and how aviation-theme movies, TV shows and commercials are filmed. It was a fun ending to the evening.
Overall, Joe and I had a great time! It was a dinner that gave us a little taste of remembering what Pan Am (if not the entire airline industry) was like in its glory days, and a whole lot of fun! It’s certainly not an inexpensive evening out, but a thoroughly enjoyable one!
The Pan Am Experience “flies” every other Saturday and space fills up fast. Click here for more info about booking.
Feature photo courtesy of Mike Kelley / Air Hollywood
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary