I Really Want To Do The Pan Am Experience!

As an aviation geek there’s an experience I’ve been meaning to have for a long time, though I haven’t had the opportunity yet. I’m sure many of you have heard of this, but I figured I’d write a post about it for those of you who haven’t. Think the “good old days” of travel are over? Well, you can relive those days without even getting off the ground.

There’s something called the Pan Am Experience, which tries to replicate the experience of flying Pan Am a few decades back. This takes place in Los Angeles at Air Hollywood, which is essentially an airplane “set” used for movies, TV shows, etc. However, every so often they also have evenings where they offer the “Pan Am Experience,” which is exactly what it sounds like.

For anyone not familiar with it, perhaps the best introduction is this Today Show clip:

I actually wrote about this in 2014, though never got around to trying it. Completely randomly I remembered this a couple of months ago, but all tickets were sold out, so I added myself to their email list. Just yesterday I received an email indicating that nearly a dozen new dates were available for the experience, including the following:

Pan-Am-1

The email also came with a pretty appropriate headline:

Pan-Am-Experience

The one “catch” with the Pan Am Experience is that it isn’t cheap… at all. There are three choices of seating options:

  • Upper Deck Lounge: $690 per pair
  • Main Deck First Class: $590 per pair
  • Clipper Cabin Dining Room: $490 per pair

Pan-Am-Experience-1

So yeah, it’s expensive, but at the same time it seems to be quite a production, and for an aviation geek, seems like an experience that’s worth having, if you can swing it. As you can see, Upper Deck passengers even get caviar, and all passengers get a shrimp cocktail, chateaubriand, etc.

While I’ve known about it for years, it’s really time I have this experience, now that dates are wide open.

Has anyone done the Pan Am Experience? How was it?

Comments

  1. As cool as that seems, I personally would rather spend the money on a 3 Michelin star meal. Given how much you seemed to enjoy the Alain Ducasse food at the Air France La Premiere lounge, I think you’d LOVE it. Go to The Fat Duck in Bray near London, Alinea in Chicago or Eleven Madison Park in NYC (my personal favorite, also recently ranked #1 restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino), and they will forever change the way you think about food. I’ve also heard very good things about Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (also in NYC, used to be in Brooklyn but recently moved to Manhattan) but haven’t been yet myself.

  2. I did this about a year ago with a friend. We paid for the upper deck seats, but I think one would get just as much enjoyment with any seat. While the prices seem high, keep in mind that everything is included, and there are no unbundled fares. Also, being someone who likes to wear a suit while flying would find himself in good company here. The only drawback is the event is up in Pacoima, so it’s a bit of a journey if you’re staying near LAX. However, given that people come from out of town for this attraction, you’d likely be able to find someone headed back to LAX. Depending on the night, you might even see a couple of celebrities on your “flight”. I’d put this experience up there with my international F trips on Qantas, Cathay Pacific, and British Airways, and this one has a far lower price of admission!

  3. I’d do this in a heartbeat if i lived in LA.

    In a big city you’re going to spend $200 a head on a 5 course dinner including drinks. So for an extra $90 you get to experience this in a unique setting.

  4. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve known friends who have done it and said its everything you think it will be.

  5. What a fab idea!

    Any – positive – experience that reflects/represents the past in the present, and a glimpse into history, has to be worth experiencing if possible.
    Go for it!

  6. There is a man in India who bought a falling-apart DC 9 and keeps it in his back yard. On Saturdays, he dresses as a pilot; his wife is the air hostess and they welcome (for free!) local neighbors who, like so many people on planet earth, will most likely never experience real air travel. Everyone sits down, gets the safety drill and buckles up, the “pilot” makes announcements, they take a virtual “flight” (and everyone gets a snack – a Coke and some naan and dip) and they they land and everyone deplanes…down the evacuation slide.

    It was shown on the British series “Paul Merton in India” a few years ago and I did upload that clip to YouTube to post here, but it was taken down.

  7. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s been on my list for the next time I’m in LA. It looks like an incredible experience.

  8. Yes! I have done it… the first year it was offered! It was awesome. It’s a labor of love for both the guy who bought all the Pan Am stuff (whose was the host) and the Air Hollywood guy. The chief flight attendant was a retired Pan Am flight attendant who was great! It’s a whole evening… you arrive… and check in inside a museum with all kinds of awesome memorabilia. They board you and have your dinner. It’s a whole show. Afterwards, you your the air Hollywood studio.

    We booked in lower deck first class… the upper deck is more “loungey” and didn’t have the same fun vibe as first class… everyone dresses up and some even in 60’s/70’s outfits.

    Knowing you from your blog… this experience would be probably orgasmic! That’s all the I’m saying. It’s a no brainer.

  9. I did this. Reach out to the head of air Hollywood before you go. He’s a wonderful guy and would love to have you in sure. You get to see the plane interiors that have been used in every movie and commercial since the movie Airplane. He also runs a program to help kids with autism and their families navigate flying.

  10. Would make one helluva “flight review.” You and Ford should wear period costumes.

  11. Having done almost 200,000 actual Pan Am miles in the early 70’s thru the mid 80’s, trust me, it’s not as nostalgic or romantic in real life.
    11 across in coach(for a route that doesn’t even exist anymore) for 14 hrs as a teenager well as F(when upstairs was only a lounge on a simply JFK-SJU trip)) as a kid.
    All on 747’s. Yes, this was a lifetime ago……. and the seats were those colors

  12. I’ve done it twice and scheduled for a third time. It is an incredibly well done, fun, worthwhile experience and definitely worth the price. They do a tour of the studio afterwards too, which is pretty cool. Even the items they have (utensils, seats, etc.) are authentic Pan Am memorabilia.

    DO IT!!!

  13. No, thank you. I’m as much of an aviation geek as the next person here, but sorry, this is just an overly expensive show to me.

    Now, if they had managed to get Boeing to rebuild several 314s, and actually, you know, FLEW them on one of the classic Pan Am Clipper routes, THAT would interest me.

  14. I’m old enough to have had the “real” Pan Am experience, once in ’77 and many times, living in Europe from ’80-’85, flying back and forth about four times per year for work. I also took TWA during those days. Never in premium cabin but I can assure that it wasn’t as genteel as this new experience seems to be. I remember the smoke-filled cabin, oppressive heat and the 11 across seating in economy, often seated in the middle seat of five across…..

    No electronics back then, just magazines and a paperback if you remembered to pack it. Trust me, those were never “the good old days.” As much as I complain, air travel today is pretty damn good.

  15. I’d love to give this a go. I’d see it more as a dinner-theater experience, so the value seems ok (per person). It’s a bit on the pricey side, but I think I might have spent spent around as much on dinner and a show before in other places on rare occasions, especially in New York or Las Vegas. While the ‘show’ aspect may not be as grand here, I’d really dig the historical parts and museum walk-through.

  16. I got tickets for lower deck first class for me and my husband for 30 Sep. I first heard about it from you. We live in AZ and will make a 3 or 4 day road trip out of it. Looking forward to it!

  17. @ Chrissy

    That sounds amazing. I’d rather experience that and pay money for it or at least donate money to keep them going. Any chance you could upload the video elsewhere? Maybe as a dropbox/google drive file?

  18. ELEVEN ACROSS!!! And here I’m complaining about Ten across on AA 777er. Econ……
    My best memory was flying ‘Ponte Areo’ from São Paulo to Rio on an Electra, spitting
    Flames from all engines, vividly seen from the tail lounge, where I was seated on a ‘horseshoe’
    Sofa at, where else, the rear of the aircraft…
    Where upon landing practically on the runway ‘ramp’, which extended into the bay…upon deplaning I gave the German Pilot the ‘OK’ sign…….which I later learned, meant something entirely different in Brazil…glad he was just looking out the cockpit window…

  19. @Matt – I’ve tried again to upload it and it seems to be up, for now; see it while it lasts!

  20. I will agree with the previous poster that is old enough to share the experience of flying the real Pan Am. It had good moments and bad moments on flights and at the airports. They did usually strive for a high mark of service
    Actually, that means it is the same as today.
    Braniff had a more hip product and a lot of personality. I am sure they had good and bad days also.
    People were much more social and conversational in past days and able to adapt to changing travel situations better than today. That helped everything with travel.

  21. I was lucky enough to enjoy the Pan Am Experience with two other friends a couple of years ago. We had a table upstairs and it was honestly an amazing evening. From the check-in counter, to all of the maps and memorabilia and the accessories available for purchase, to the cocktail party pre-departure, everything was done to an incredible level of authentic detail.

    I was there on an evening when CNN had a reporter and camera crew there, and other reporters on board. We even had the CEO of Etihad Airways also on the upper deck dining at a table behind us. There were former flight attendants and pilots from Pan Am crew who were there to enjoy the evening, and some of them were incredibly emotional at being in that environment again. It was quite moving.

    As others have mentioned above, the two guys who run this experience are really amazing, extremely friendly and take great pride in what they have put together.

    I can’t recommend this experience highly enough.

  22. I believe NoMasCoach did this, and published a nice review. I was fortunate enough to fly Pan Am many times in the late 80’s as a young travel agent based in Miami. They were simply amazing. In fact, my first memory of flying was when I was six, unable to sleep due to excitement, and being given a tour of a Pan Am 747. The novelty of the upstairs lounge and meeting the pilots was really something. Live that notalgia a bit for yourself. Expensive or not, try it out.

  23. HA! I’m old enough to have lived through several real Pan Am experiences (in coach), and one or two of them were downright unpleasant. The worst was when I was in college, and my girlfriend’s ticket (paper in those days!) was stolen during a trip to Europe. We called Pan Am and they assured us she could get a new ticket at FRA. But the morning of our return flight, the very obnoxious agent refused to issue a ticket, making us instead buy a whole new ticket for an exorbitant amount of money (which, she said, would be refunded after we got home and filed a claim). Then, when we got home, we filed a claim – after which Pan Am promptly filed for bankruptcy.

    My girlfriend did eventually get her money back (customers were the first creditors to receive payment), but as far as I was concerned, Pan Am’s bankruptcy was good riddance.

  24. @ Chrissy

    You’re awesome! Thanks! That’s so cool, really appreciate the concept of trying to share the experience of flying to people who most likely will never get on a real flight.

  25. So wondering if you booked or not?. We reserved the day reservations opened up. As of today, only clipper class is available for our dates. Hope you were able to plan a time that far in advance.

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