State of the Airlines

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Old Pan Am is Finally at Rest

Ahhh Pan Am. One of the kings of "old school" airlines. One of the ruler of the skies when the words "glamor" and "mystique" could still be used in the same sentence as "airline". Did you know that the Pan Am globe logo was second most recognized in the world...just behind Coca-Cola. Yeah, they were that big.

Pan Am started their downhill run to bankruptcy in the 80's. Some say the airline's demise started as the industry began shifting. Others will tell you it was just poor management decisions. Whatever the case, their downhill slide to liquidation was accelerated by one of worst air disasters in that era when a bomb exploded on Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland. Finally on December 4th, 1991 Pan Am ceased operations. I remember browsing the web in the late 90's and reading some of the websites that had been started by ex-Pan Am employees. What caught my attention was the number of people that had worked for Pan Am their entire career...15, 20, 30 even 40 years. It became apparent to me that when Pan Am ceased a way of life went with it. If you're curious and want to learn more about what an airline of this size means to those who worked for it you should visit here or here.

Your physics professor will tell that a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an external force. Pan Am was a very big body with a lot of momentum and the external forces acting on it took a very long time to stop it. Some 15 years later the final act came this week when the bankruptcy court approved final payments to be made to employees who were owed back pay and vacation pay. As is typical in these things those who are owed money will only receive about 5% of the total sum. Which illustrates what I believe to be one of the largest flaws in our bankruptcy system. The employees are the LAST in line to get paid and when they are its years too late at a fraction of what they are owed. Whatever...Pan Am is now at rest.

NOTE: The Pan Am name and logo has been sold three times since the original's demise. The Pan Am Connection is a small airline operating a few routes on the east coast between smaller airports.

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