nostalgia, travel, videos, YouTube

Pan Am flight attendant training videos are so very entertaining!

A couple of weeks ago, I happened across a YouTube channel for the Pan Am Museum Foundation. Pan Am, for those who were born after the early 1990s, was a much celebrated American airline. I remember flying Pan Am a couple of times in the 1970s, when my family of origin lived in England. Everyone used to rave about the high service standards. In 1988, Pan Am’s reputation took a hit, when one of its fleet, Flight 103, was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland. 243 passengers and 16 crew members perished. I was sixteen years old at the time. Just a few years after the bombing, the legendary airline went bust, but people still remembered it fondly.

I remember in 2011, there was a television show called Pan Am that was a dramatized series about the early years of the airline. It was kind of a cool show. I was sorry when it was canceled after one season. I also read an interesting self-published book called Pan Am Unbuckled, written by a woman who was a flight attendant for Pan Am. I’m not sure if the author knew about the TV show when she published her book, but I’m sure the show helped her pick up some sales.

The boss giving Pan Am flight attendants a pep talk.

I love to watch cheesy employee training videos, especially the ones that were made in the 70s and 80s. The Pan Am Museum Foundation has a whole bunch of these videos on YouTube, which are great for killing a few minutes and getting some laughs. Most of the videos are rather poorly acted. I can think of a couple that would be considered offensive, or politically incorrect, today. Check out this 50s era video about serving food. At one point, the golden voice narrator adopts a generic Asian accent as he describes serving Asian food.

I have never seen airline food that looks like this…
This one is kind of nice. It reminds me of those hygiene films we used to watch in school!

The videos also remind us of what flying was like in the past. Years ago, it was possible to smoke on a flight, and one of the videos even addresses how to deal with people who light up in the no smoking section! In another, a smoker is yelled at by a flight attendant for sitting in her jump seat, while she smokes a cigarette. And this is deemed perfectly okay!

I like how the passenger is calmly smoking when she gets busted by the flight attendant.
You can’t smoke here! The smoker wants to shop for furs in London, too!

And here is a video about an uppity woman who thinks she should get a free upgrade to first class. It’s really too funny! It’s hard to believe that people want to work on airplanes, especially since most of them don’t get paid until the plane starts taxiing. Yes, when they are greeting you as you board the flight, they are working for free! I did read that that policy is probably going to change, thanks to the hell flight attendants have had to deal with during the pandemic.

I fly Pan Am all the time… you need to treat me like I’m special.

The below video was less interesting to me… But it does remind one of how service used to be much more important than it is now. He shows how to serve champagne and carve roast beef, which they used to do right at the person’s seat. Nowadays, even in first class, flying feels like a lowbrow affair.

I wonder if this guy was this helpful at home.

And here’s a video depicting a rather unpleasant flight attendant confronting other flight attendants. She’s quite testy. I can’t blame her.

Linda doesn’t like a disorganized galley. There’s about to be a cat fight!
Flight attendant listens to a man who is upset about missing a connection.

It really is fun to watch some of these videos, although they are a painful reminder of how old I am. I wish I’d had the opportunity to fly Pan Am more when it was still in service. I very vaguely remember flying them to Tunisia. I think we also flew Pan Am when we moved back to the States from England. I remember their mascot was a panda bear named Pierre, and they gave all the kids cool schwag to keep them busy. In those days, there weren’t a lot of entertainment options.

Wouldn’t it be funny if someone turned these videos into a live acted comedy show? I’ve seen other people write about them, so I’m definitely not the only one who finds them fun to watch. They are also a reminder of a bygone era, never to return. And that IS kind of sad. At least we still have the videos!

Oh my… this is so SOVIET!! It’s awesome! Both the airline and the country ceased to exist in 1991.

2 thoughts on “Pan Am flight attendant training videos are so very entertaining!

  1. In the 1950s, my mom had to get a job to support herself and my older half-sister after her first marriage was annulled. (Technically, she didn’t have to; my grandparents and other “grands” would have preferred that Mom be a stay-at-home mom in the family homestead, as it were. Mom was too independently minded for that BS, though.) She had a fascination with airplanes ever since was a child in Colombia, and she was adventurous and loved to travel, so she chose to become a flight attendant for Avianca, Colombia’s flag airline.

    At the time, Pan American World Airways was a part-owner of Avianca due to the U.S.-led “de-Germanization” process that took place during World War II; until 1940, the airline (a joint venture between German and Colombian businessmen) was known as Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transportes Aéreos or SCADTA. Concern in Washington about a possible Nazi threat to the Panama Canal led to Pan Am’s Juan Trippe’s purchase of Peter von Bauer’s shares in the company, which made Pan Am the majority shareholder of the newly renamed Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia.

    When my mom began her training as a flight attendant in the mid-1950s, Pan Am was still a major shareholder in Avianca, and all flight personnel was trained by Pan Am. I’m not sure about the pilots’ uniforms, but Mom said that Avianca’s flight attendants wore variations of the Pan Am uniform for female crew members. Her uncle Bernardo, my grandmother’s brother, was also on Avianca’s board of directors at the time; he was opposed to Mom’s decision to work in the airline and told the instructors to make her training especially hard, so she’d quit. Mom was resilient, though, and eventually flew on the international routes (Madrid, Paris, New York, and Frankfurt-am-Main) because she spoke English.

    Mom also – by chance – was one of the innovators of Avianca’s “ruana roja” uniform accessory that set Avianca’s flight attendant uniform from Pan Am’s. I doubt that the airline officially gave her credit for it though.

    As for me, when we did the “reverse migration” from Miami to Bogota in 1966 – I was three then – my mom sent me to Colombia accompanied by my maternal grandparents aboard a Pan Am flight. The captain, Joe Cicarello, was a friend of my parents, so I was given a set of Junior Clipper Pilot’s wings by the man himself. He also – per my grandparents telling of it – gave me a tour of the cockpit before we took off.

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