Date Night: The Pan Am Experience

By Christina Elston

date night

A dinner date with the Pan Am Experience takes you on a vintage “flight” to the 1970s. PHOTO COURTESY VATCHE KARAGOSIAN/AIR HOLLYWOOD

Does anyone ever deliberately set out to eat airplane food? If that food is part of Air Hollywood’s Pan Am Experience, you definitely should!

Avoid the crowds at LAX, leave your luggage at home and head instead to a cluster of warehouses off the 118 Freeway in San Fernando to board a Pan Am 747 for a flight to the 1970s. Pan American World Airways disbanded in 1991 and the airplane won’t leave the ground, but after a martini or two from the Clipper Club Lounge, you won’t mind at all.

Even without the cocktails (which are poured generously throughout the evening, so consider a cab home) it’s tons of fun. After checking in and receiving your vintage Pan Am boarding pass, browse the airline memorabilia in the lounge and await the arrival of the flight crew – all in period Pan Am uniforms. Many of your fellow passengers also will dress the part, and cocktail attire is strictly enforced (no jeans, t-shirts or flip flops).

After boarding, stewardesses (don’t call them “fight attendants”) will pour you another cocktail as Frank Sinatra croons over the sound system and you explore the First and Clipper Class compartments and the Upper Deck dining room. Then take your assigned seat. Like on a real flight, you’ll have slightly more room in the pricier seats, but you’ll be treated to the same food and drink. Also like on a real plane, chatting with fellow travelers is part of the fun.

Before “takeoff” and dinner, munch your Pan Am almonds and pay close attention to the pre-flight safety demonstration, which is full of tongue-in-cheek humor. Once your stewardess sets your table, though, there’s nothing funny about the dinner spread. Shrimp cocktail appetizers, Chateaubriand carved from the serving trolley (vegetarian options are available), roasted vegetables, fresh fruit, cheese course and decadent dessert are perfectly prepared and served with style.

Vintage in-flight magazines (a 1970s “Ladies Home Journal” with a young Paul Newman on the cover!) and a fashion show featuring Pan Am uniforms through the decades round out the fun.

Upper Deck tickets cost $690 a pair, while First Class run $590 and Clipper Class $490. The open bar, excellent service and delicious food make up for the fact that it’s almost as much as an actual flight. And after you de-plane, you can tour the rest of this aviation-themed entertainment studio, including the original cockpit from cult classic “Airplane!” and sets and props used in the films “Bridesmaids” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and the television show “Lost.”

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