Pan American Airways is considered one of the most famous and successful airline industry in the United States’ aviation history. The airline served as an international leader in the aviation industry through transportation of peoples, goods and mails throughout the world. It was founded in 1927 and collapsed in 1991. From 1930s, Pan American World Airways was the principal American flag carrier until airlines were deregulated in the 1980s.
A lot of analysis of the Pan American World Airways has been done on its influence on economic, historic and emotional impact on people. This paper tries to do a critical appraisal of the Pan American World Airways’ influence on the international airline industry as depicted by various researchers. The paper considers how, according to various researchers, the company contributed to the growth of modern airlines through its strategic management, innovation and fabulous aircraft designs.
According to Weirather, within the 64 years of its existence, Pan Am, as it was commonly known, grew from an airline covering a 90 mile route from Havana to Key West to an international airline that became an icon in the American aviation industry (Weirather, 2007). Weirather further states that though Pan American Airways was not the first passenger airline and failed to dominate the domestic market, it was very influential and is better known in the history of American commercial aviation. His arguments are affirmed by Sobel when he states that Pan American Airways represented an adventurous image of the U.S. all over the world (Sobel 1984). According to the researchers, Pan Am is considered a pioneer in the development of air routes, aviation equipment, navigation techniques, and commercial passenger service and communication systems. Pan American Airways’ success inspired breathtaking devotion from its employees and customers (Boyne, 2002). In addition, its success equally inspired strong jealousy from other rival aviation industries.
Due to its great success, in 1994, just three years after it ceased its operation, the name of the company, Pan Am, and its logo were licensed for $1.32 (Norton, 1999). This shows the great influence of the company in America. In addition, the Pan Am logo was used in ABC television drama series in 2011. Many other television series have been launched; showing how Pan Am, a historic trademark, will continue having a significant value long after it ceased its operations. Currently, the name is owned by the Pan Am Railways. In addition to the trade mark, Pan Am, being used by the rail freights, the trademark is used to market handbags, apparel, luggage, and accessories (Norton 1999). All these show the great impact of the Pan Am airlines even after its seizure of operation.
According to Pan American Airways Corporation (1942), in addition to passenger flights, Pan Am offered official mail services between major cities. This is indeed true since the company offered services such as delivering mails, shipment of agricultural and manufactured products, transportation of business people, tourists and commuters. The company introduced commercial aviation all over the world and by so doing, it changed the way people viewed themselves through interaction.
As Weirather states, Pan Am achievements can be attributed to its enormous style of management. For instance, the company designed memorable advertisements to lure customers. In addition, Pan Am created famous clipper ships and helped in development of airport terminals (Weirather 2007). Its innovations of equipment and spectacular aircraft design helped in revolutionizing commercial air services. For instance, the Pan American Seaplane Base and Terminal Building was one of the finest buildings of its kind.
Pan Am, according to Harris, was the leading contributor to the development of Marine air terminals (Harris 2011). The company had flying boats called the Clipper ships, which were luxurious passenger seaplanes that dependent on water ways for their landing and takeoff.
In economic growth, Harris notes that Pan Am acted as a stimulus in many parts of the world. For example, as early as 1934, Pan Am started the South Florida market. The market attracted many international businesses and tourists and it hosted an average of eighty thousand travellers monthly (pg 112). In addition, crowds of people gathered at the marine air terminal to watch the huge flying boats. All these show how influential Pan Am was in the United States. Also, the construction of the Dinner Key Terminal saw the United States government approve funds for dredging of a channel for aircrafts, the innovation of adjustable telescoping walkways and solar-heated water.
According to Ben-Yosef (2005), after the enactment of the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, it was easy for other airline companies to enter the industry. The face of the airline changed as it operated under the market forces and each airline had freedom of setting their destinations and fares. However, despite the challenges Pan Am airline recovered, though not fully, and became the greatest in America with so many destinations worldwide. This influenced other airline companies and acted as a challenge to their management. They saw Pan Am as a well-managed airline company because of its quick recovery.
Ben-Yosef (2005) notes that even after the financial failures and successes after deregulation the industry was still fragile. However, Pan Am brought a significant impact on the revenues and fares due to online travel distribution channels, introduction of low-cost carriers and the internet provision of transparency pricing. This had a great impact on the entire air travel industry.
Pan Am also influenced security systems in airlines (Brady 2000). Safety and security was a major issue to many airline companies. Pan Am incorporated new security procedures. However, this led to an increase in the operating cost, delays and flight disruptions related to flight. In addition, lengthy passenger delays and passenger disruptions due to use of outdated traffic control system and lack of coordination of flight schedules among some airlines led to loss of trust on air travel on passengers and hence affecting the entire industry (Brady 2000). According to Brady (2000), passengers often opted to use other forms of transport because of insecurity and high fares. The Pan Am airlines had a perfect safety records and despite fierce competition from rival companies for foreign contracts and mail routes, the company still emerged the best. For instance, in 1926, Pan Am was chosen for carrying U.S. mails to South America. This in turn led to another rival airline, NYRBA, merging with Pan Am in 1931 (Norton 1999).
The Pam American airline, through its founder Juan Trippe, came up with some innovations such as the missile ranges, the mightiest international airlines, the New York City office building, hotels and business jets (Harris 2011). This can indeed true since the Intercontinental Hotel Groups operated under the Pan American airlines. The hotels, which are still in existence up to date, are located in many different countries and only 18 were in the United States (Harris 2011). The Pan American airline influenced other airlines to start diverting to catering services such as in hotels in order to accommodate its customers worldwide. In so doing, Pan Am became the most important and the most influential airline in the American commercial aviation history. By 1946, the airline was diversifying more into the hotel business where it anticipated adding more modern accommodation for its customers.
Pan Am pioneered the introduction of jets that would enable more people to travel by air because they were cheaper and faster than the stratocruiser (Higham & Higham 2003). According to Higham, in order to counter the challenge, other airlines also purchased such jets. The introduction of jests had a great impact to the industry since the middle class were able to travel by air because of the low fare charged. Pan Am also played a role in influencing the shape of Boeing aircrafts whose designs were wide bodied and could accommodate up to 490 passengers.
In its advertisements Pam Am, lured its targeted audience by showing its achievements and its flawless efficiency on both its modernized aircrafts and its competent crew (Higham & Higham 2003). Its advertisements were indeed colorful in both images and prose and they described the wonders of air travel in a most romantic and effusive manner. However, the logistics of Pan Am handling huge amphibious aircraft often contradicted with their promotional claims.
According to Clausen (2005), the Pan Am airline contributed greatly to the growth of Miami. It is no wonder that by 1946 Pan Am proudly boasted of its role in Miami’s growth. The town was not only a tourist destination but it was also a leading seaport of entry to the United States. For instance, the 36th Street Airport in Miami was the first modern passenger terminal in the U.S. It was not only the Pan Am’s base, but it also housed the public heath, immigration and customs officials. It was a landmark building not only for Miami- it was used as a standard in construction of commercial aviation structures for many years (Bednarek, 2003).
Pan Am airlines offered their customers with unforgettable experience during the flight that revolutionized commercial air travel (Clausen 2005). It is no wonder in 1942 Pan Am made a successful round-the-world flight. The Company pioneered the construction of a technological wonder, the China Clipper. This introduced unheard comfort to air travel with its spectacular interior design and as one passenger recalled, “"Fifty years from now, people will look back on a Clipper flight as the most romantic voyage in history” (Witzel 2005).
Pan American airline was creative, committed and daring in its services throughout the years of its existence (Carey 2002). The company brought together so many people from all over the world. It employed people from different countries who worked in the industry or in the catering department. The services it offered were of high quality and this led to other airlines envy Pan Am and this revolutionized air travel. The airline took many risks in innovation and offering services. Employees from the airline argue that it was the most renowned, most celebrated and the greatest airline in the history of aviation (Szurovy 2000). As Szurovy notes, anyone wishing to establish an airline and be successful should emulate the Pan American airline. The management of the airline was good and some of the employees went beyond duty and were willing to do anything for the betterment of its services. Pan Am acted as an example to other airlines and thus they learned to offer quality services to ensure customer satisfaction. The airline had a form of welcoming its travelers. They were welcomed with champagne during boarding and after take-off. They also gave them chocolate and scones!
In establishing routes, the airline established its main route which was Key West to Havana, this was done to avoid taking too long such that the air-mail contract could not expire. It pioneered the transatlantic jet-service and also spearheaded the development of the Boeing 747 (Pan American Airways Corporation 1942). Other airlines have been working hard to come to where the Pan American was in terms of offering services. They also manufactured their own travel accessories and travel bags which are still functional, fashionable and tech friendly.
Despite its great achievements Pan American Airways went bankrupt and ceased is operation in December 4th 1991. This marked a period of 64 years after its first flight from Key West to Havana. This affected not only the company but many of its customers all over the world and this shows how the company was so special to them. According to Brady (2000), Pan Am was glamorous. No wonder it was chosen by a movie director, Stanley, in 2001. Pan Am, according to many Americans was a company with a mission to carry the American image and values all over the globe. In 1975, Pan Am voluntarily gave a rescue plane to help Americans who were stuck in Saigon. The employees of Pan Am were most devastated not because of loss of their jobs and paychecks, but they were grieving for something they lost- something they felt they were part of.
In conclusion, Pan Am changed the nature of international air travel.Pan American airline is considered to one of the greatest airline in terms of innovation in the history of aviation. They were the best in terms of quality service delivery. They established routes which are still being used by other airlines. During its many decades of operation, it captured the imagination of many thousands of world travellers with its aircraft design, architecture and advertising. It pioneered the development of air routes, aviation equipment, navigation techniques, and commercial passenger service and communication systems. It also ventured into the field of catering where it established the InterContinental hotels. The hotels, up-to date, are spread all over the world providing catering services. In addition, it enabled the middle class travel by air after the introduction of jets which charged affordable fare. These jets set a lower price and hence a larger population could afford it. The airline will still linger in the minds of many people who encountered the extra ordinary service offered by the airline.
There are many images and words of Pan Am that acts as testimony to the exclusive and exciting chapter of aviation in the world. . Though the airline collapsed, it made a legacy in the industry and only suffered unhealthy competition in service delivery. The Pan Am will continue to inspire great airlines all over the world. It will continue to be the leading airline in innovation in the history of America and also the entire world.