SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Experiencing the Glamor of Flight



January 23, 2017
Monday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Recently I read about an entrepreneur in Los Angeles who is attempting to recreate what he calls "The Pan Am Experience" for people interested in a different sort of night out.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

The idea is to offer folks a chance - for a significant fee - to spend an evening of wining and dining in a mock up of a jetliner cabin.

Yes, I know, you are mocking this up already.

I can hear you snorting and guffawing.

What could possibly be more fun than to sit in a cramped airline seat with no inches of legroom as the grande-sized person in the middle seat oozes over into your personal space while an attendant walks up and down the aisle hectoring you to buy the airline credit card and reminding you to unplug your electronic devices because the plane will be landing sometime in the next two hours?

Well, when you put it that way, maybe I will skip the picnic pack and the complimentary Bloody Mary for sitting in the exit row.

Come to think of it, doesn't it seem a bit weird to encourage drinking amongst the very people who are supposed to be clear headed enough "during the remote event of an emergency" to remove the door and look out to see if it is safe before the rest of us deplane?

Think about it.

"Is it safe out there?"

"Surrrrrrre. Geronnnnnnnniiiiimmoooooo! "

As usual, I digress.

Unfortunately, when we think about airline travel today, we only think about unbearable security lines, unpalatable food and a lack of basic comfort that is a long way from "the only way to fly."

These days the only way to fly is to win the lottery and have a private jet at your beck and call.

Which raises another question. I get call. But what the heck does "beck" mean?

Probably something to do with "beckon." But I remember reading in a British novel once that a "beck" was a small river.

While "calling your river" is an interesting metaphor it does not seem applicable in this instance.

Have you ever seriously tried to "beck" someone? More than once?

Anyway, there is this company that wants to return you to the days when flying was boarding a "clipper" in the sky.

Okay, I do vaguely remember back in the day when flying was a little more posh.

Even dear old Alaska Air had something it called "Golden Samovar Service" in the 1960s. Besides the big, honking Russian tea pot (the sole reason 727s had the third engine, a fully loaded samovar weighed a freakin' ton), it featured real three course meals and sumptuous snacks, plenty of alcohol and, yes, seats that were actually wide enough to hold even the most sumptuous hind end.

Of course, in those days our hind ends were a bit smaller than they are today. Back then the average airline passenger weighed about 135 pounds. Today, the average "small personal carry on item" weighs about 135 pounds.

Which, natch, gets me to thinking that we are rapidly approaching the point where the airlines start mimicking the air taxies and begin asking us how much we "weigh" in order to better optimize the "successful take off experience."

BTW, the answer "less than before the security line because I left several personal items on the conveyor belt" would not be considered a sufficient answer. But asking this question would create jobs for all the Uncle (Hey, I bet I can guess your weight) Ralphs out there!

So yeah, back to the idea of a fun night out in an airplane cabin. Once upon a time, it WAS a bit more upscale to fly.

If you believe the old newspaper, magazine and television advertisements from the 1950s and 1960s (Smoking CURES asthma!), flying was a full dinner jacket affair.

In those ads, you see stylish "jetsetters" enjoying their meals (real silverware!) in spacious chairs with stewardesses grinning happily while they refill your coffee without even being asked. Everyone is treated just like "an elite mileage plan member." Go figure.

This apparently is what the folks in Los Angeles aspire to. And they have even rented a location near LAX in which airline interior shots for movies are often filmed. That's totally brilliant. A movie set is absolutely as "real" as it gets these days.

And, yes, there is a dress code. Because back in the old days, people did dress up a bit more to fly. Suits, pressed slacks, hosiery.

Of course, it would hardly be possible to dress any further DOWN than a lot of people do these days. This may shock some of you, but folks just don't seem to go all out in the fashion way on jet flights these days. No evening dresses, no ties, no deodorant.

It's amazing what some folks wear to take a long distance airplane flight.

I saw a grown woman wearing leopard spotted pajamas - with footies - a couple of flights ago.

One guy waiting in the security line had pants so low that he just stepped of them rather than pull them up when the officer directed him to. You'd think folks were going to Walmart or something.

And then when people finally clear security (All your clothing in the trays, hands over your head) and get settled on the plane, then it really gets informal in a hurry.

We've all been on a flight where the goofus in the middle seat decides to pretty much completely disrobe when the 5,000 foot bell dings in the cabin ("It is now safe to go butt naked about the cabin") First the shoes, then the socks, then the yoga pants, then any shred of decency.

Fortunately you can avoid any such indignity by forking over a little under $200 for a "clipper class ticket" at the Pan Am Experience (First Class ticket is $300).

For that you get a pretty spiffy meal, stewardesses (no stewards) in period costume, videos and other "inflight" entertainment, an endless alcohol selection, and appreciably more legroom.

Best of all, since this is a high class experience, THERE IS NO MIDDLE SEAT!

Sure it seems a bit much, but it's been several decades since $200 could get a similar "inflight" experience.

Although the pretzels have definitely improved over the years.



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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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