Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An ode to Pan Am

The words "appalling" and "airlines" are synonymous in the language (allegedly English) spoken in the US of A. It wasn't that way some time ago. Pan Am was synonymous with "wonderful", as long as it flew. It was THE airline in the US. Unfortunately it went bankrupt in 1991. But the brand is still powerful amongst a certain generation (not comprising readers of this blog !). Those with a taste for nostalgia, which prompted this post, click here .

No amount of vitriol can be considered excessive when it comes to US airlines. All of them are uniformly awful. Extreme masochism can be the only excuse for condemning somebody to a flight on an American airline. The worst airports in the world are all in the US. From the moment you enter to check in, to the time you get out at your destination, it is pure torture. Inside the US, you have no choice but to reconcile to extreme pain, but it beats me as to why anybody flies long haul in an US airline when other options exist. To read an eminent American's surprise that airlines can actually be pleasant elsewhere in the world, click here .

Pan Am wasn't like that. It could compete with the best in the world.  If you were to go the US, you chose Pan Am. Unfortunately 270 people chose Pan Am on that fateful flight in 1988 which was bombed over Lockerbie - a blow from which the airline itself never recovered. Its decline had started much earlier with the oil price shocks and increasing competition, but that terrorist act was a body blow. It shut shop in 1991, ending a glorious chapter in US aviation. Only to unleash the monsters that inhabit the US skies now.

I have no idea who owns the brand rights to Pan Am, but certainly to an older generation, it represents civilised flying. How about an entrepreneur reinventing the airline and launching a decent flying option in the US.  Standards have fallen so low there, that there surely must be a segment which is willing to pay higher prices to travel in a humane manner. Now, that's a thought. Any takers ? Maybe the thoughtful train can morph into a thoughtful plane ?

PS - I have just got down from a plane. One of the finest airlines in the world, in one of the finest airports in the world. I am thanking my stars,  that its a million miles away from the country where "terrorists" rule the sky.