Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
In the past, the Pan American Airways building stood tall in New York. It was considered a landmark. The structure is still there but the big letters on top of the building have disappeared, perhaps forever. Around two years ago, an article published in Arab News talked about the old Dhahran Airport and the two largest US air carriers that used to operate there — Pan Am and TWA. Following the publication of the article, I received many touching emails from around the world. After going through various mails, I realized that Pan Am was not just an airline; it was a love story that had touched the lives of many. A woman, Ursula, wrote to me that she and her husband were Pan Am employees. And to my surprise, she told me that the Pan Am employees had reunions 20 years after the shutdown of the organization. More than 600 former Pan Am employees, who traveled from all over the world to meet in Monte Carlo, organized a similar reunion in November 2012. Many people look at the Dubai-based Emirates airline as the new Pan Am or at least it reminds them of Pan Am. Like Pan Am, Emirates is currently the reigning international airline. However, Emirates does not fly on domestic routes. I wonder what could the innovative city of Dubai do for those international travelers who still carry with them Pan Am memorabilia? The answer is simple. Dubai can bring back Pan Am. Emirates is doing for the world aviation what Pan Am did decades ago. It has given a new meaning to the word “luxury.” But why then so many people are still stuck in the good old days of Pan Am? For many travelers especially US citizens who flew between American airports and took many international flights in the past would always look back at the so-called good old days of aviation. In today’s aviation industry in the US, many things are missing from airports and airplanes. Now, it is rare to see a wide-body Boeing 747, which has been replaced by smaller aircraft even for coast-to-coast flights. And many planes don’t have business or first class. In the past, while traveling aboard a wide-body aircraft with 80 percent seats occupied, one still had the chance to see empty seats. These days, smaller aircraft are used even on long routes and some have seat that don’t recline thus making the journey painful at times. And I am not sure why no meals are served on flights that are even longer than 5 hours unless you pay. I think these are the reasons due to which many Americans miss the good old days when Pan Am was around. What is even more missing from many airlines compared to the days of Pan Am is a “service with smile.” Just few days ago, a woman was denied a request for an unopened can of Coke and the denial came with racial remarks. A few moons ago, a man reportedly had to pay $80 extra in order to sit next to his daughter. These are the reasons many people praise Emirates and for reasons best known to them make a mention of Pan Am. Pan Am operated flights even in the heart of the Cold War zone with its flights to West Berlin. To cut the long story short, there are people from around the world who want to see Pan Am taking to the skies once again. In the past, Pan Am operated China’s National Aviation to cover the inland Chinese routes. So, what if Pan Am is revived again to operate on US domestic routes with the same old friendly touch and Dubai-based Emirates becomes the main operator of the new Pan Am. Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Good Old Days of Aviation reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.