Dining with John Travolta on a Pan Am 747

Pan Am

A couple years ago, you may remember that I put together an evening of dinner and drinks on Anthony Toth’s Pan Am 747 mockup. It was a test run to see if Anthony could do something like this regularly, and it proved successful. Now, Anthony has moved his 747 to Air Hollywood’s property and the Pan Am Experience was born. Anthony invited me and my wife to come take part in September, and it was a great night. Apparently it’s doing well, and the Hollywood crowd has even taken notice. On the night I was there, Hollywood’s king airline dork himself, John Travolta, was dining with his family.

Pan Am Experience Hangar

It’s a somewhat strange experience arriving at the location. Tucked into a semi-seedy corner of Pacoima (is there a non-seedy corner of Pacoima?) in the San Fernando Valley, the building looks non-descript from the outside. But there is a red carpet welcoming you to the First and Clipper Class terminal. Once inside, it opens into a big stage with a bunch of Pan Am memorabilia in display cases in the center. At one end is the ticket counter where you check in and receive your boarding pass. At the other, there is a giant printed screen showing a Pan Am 747, the one which we’d be boarding through the main door.

Boarding Area

But first, it was time to socialize in the lounge. There are several old seats scattered around the area as well as a bar that appears to be made out of an engine cowling. My wife and I got a drink and had a look around.

Crew Prepares to Board

Soon, the crew was ready to board. Anthony is the Captain, but everyone else was found through casting calls. This job is like any other acting role in Hollywood, it’s just something of a unique setting.

Once boarding was called, we were told that the first few minutes would be open for everyone to just wander and mingle. The Captain and flight attendants greeted us as we walked on board. We would be dining downstairs in the nose section (that’s $295, though we didn’t have to pay this time). Upstairs it costs $60 more.

Boarding the Pan Am 747

I didn’t count, but I believe there were about 30 passengers onboard. It was completely full except for one party that had to cancel at the last minute because one of them went into labor. Good reason not to fly, I’d say.

The mix of passengers was certainly interesting. Across from me and my wife were a couple who seemed to be there because of a love for vintage stuff. They weren’t airline people at all, but they still loved the experience. Then behind us was John Travolta and 7 of his family members including his wife, his mother (it was for her birthday), and his daughter. They were all extremely friendly and interacted with everyone. I actually really enjoyed talking shop with him. He’s a true airline dork who could put many of us to shame.

Talking to John, I learned something terrible. He has grounded his 707 because it was getting too expensive. (I think that’s maintenance-related, not fuel, but I don’t know.) What awful news.

Pan Am 747 Menu

Back in our seats, the flight attendants performed the safety briefing and then began service. The food, which is still prepared by an airline caterer, was actually very good. The menus were handed out and orders placed. We started with the appetizer. I had the shrimp while my wife had tomato and mozzarella.

Shrimp Appetizer

The main course was outstanding. The flight attendants came through with a cart of chateaubriand and sliced it at each seat.

Chateaubriand on Pan Am

As dinner went on, there were a couple of fashion shows, where flight attendants displayed different uniforms from different eras. Then there were a couple quizzes. First was the Pan Am history quiz. I only got 9 out of 10. John Travolta, however, got them all. (See, told you he could put some of us to shame.) Then there was a 3-letter code quiz, which I aced.

To keep with the early 1970s theme, Anthony came by with some prop cigarettes for everyone to play with. Ah yes, smoking on an airplane. What a terrible idea. (This is where you all yell at me for daring to take a photo with a fake cigarette.)

Fake Cigarette

After dinner, the cheese and fruit cart came through followed by the dessert cart. The flight attendants had certainly done a decent job, but it was clear they were actors and not actual flight attendants. There was something missing from their performance, though it’s hard to put my finger on it exactly.

At the end of the evening, it was time to say goodbye. Then it got a little weird. The flight attendants sang “Downtown” by Petula Clark and then did a conga line. I’d say they should scrap that part. We were done at 10:30 and headed home after a quick walk around the lot.

Overall, this was fantastic. Apparently Air Hollywood likes this so much that it’s looking to build one in New York as well. But it’s hard to replicate the love, sweat, and blood that Anthony has put into making this incredible 747 come to life. I’d highly recommend it. And in fact, maybe we’ll do an event next year when this blog turns 10 years old.

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26 comments on “Dining with John Travolta on a Pan Am 747

  1. I would love to see this franchised throughout the US or even the world using different airlines as the base like Eastern Airlines in South Florida based on it’s long history before its demise in the last century.

    Brett, let me be the first to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving since you won’t have a blog entry if you follow your normal posting schedule.

    1. TC – Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here as well. I will have my usual True Meaning of Thanksgiving post go live, but that’s about it. Regular content will resume on Monday.

    2. Former Eastern staff did open a restaurant called Spirit on The west side of Miami Airport with airline seats and all but it closed down a few years age.

  2. So did you get a photo taken with Travolta? $295 sounds a bit steep for me to convince a non-airline dork spouse. Maybe they should do a coach service version? Seriously – would like to see more of this done, the replicas with all the vintage stuff. Would love to see a replica of my favorite plane, the L1011 totally decked out in mid-80’s Delta glory. Sadly I never got on a PanAm 747, but do like the idea of doing this with other airlines…TWA comes to mind.

    1. A – We didn’t bother him for a photo. I just wanted to let him enjoy his evening with his family (with the occasional airline dork conversation). But we did get some pics of him and others onboard throughout the night.

    1. Chris – Well, the bones of that airplane I think were a former JAL aircraft. At least that’s what I remember. That’s probably as close as I get to a tail number!

  3. Looks like fun. Your suit and cigarette is so ’60’s. I find it interesting to watch Perry Mason and other shows from that era at times because smoking was so common, and the airport scenes are so different from what one would see now. Let me add my wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  4. Looks like fun, but yeah $295 is a bit on the steep side.

    Happy turkey day to the entire cranky family.

    FYI I believe Air Hollywood supplied the plane in the Rachel MCAdams flick Red Eye in 2005.

  5. I went to this a few months ago and had the best time. We met other airline dorks, as well as Pan Am flight attendants and captains. It really does draw an interesting group of people together.

  6. His mock up is fantastic. I was along for the dinner a couple of years ago; looks like it’s only gotten better. It was an awesome experience.

    Glad to see he’s doing well and that he’s expanded the operation to the greater public.

  7. I went with a group of former Pan Am employees, including a lot of stewardesses. We loved it too. Anthony’s careful restoration of the airline cabin is a tribute to our iconic airline.

  8. Cranky:

    Would you have the permission to publish the questions from both the PA history quiz and the airport code quiz, here on crankyflier.com?

  9. Glad you have a grabd secInd time.  My wife and i attended the first dvent.  I wad dressed as a pilot, my wife as a Pan Am flight attendant.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  10. The cigarette smoke would ruin the experience for a lot of us! and it’s been a long time ssince smoking was allowed. That ban is the one good thing that’s happened in flying.

  11. I was one of the Flight Attendants that Pan Am hired when it started flying the 747. As the most junior F/A’s, we were based on the East Coast and did almost nothing but 747 flying, since the most of the more senior F/A’s did not want to fly it. For me, it was absolutely incredible (as well as very challenging) to fly that magnificent, brand-new aircraft as a JFK-based F/A. At that time, our uniforms were the same as the uniforms shown in your post. I worked first class, galley and cabin, both upstairs and downstairs, many, many times. I often sat in one of the two furthest-aft jump seats for takeoff so that I could look up the aisle all the way forward and time the entire roll and the long period between the nose and main wheel lift offs (all noted in my log book). Although I admire Mr. Toth’s dedication to recreating the Pan Am experience, I loved flying for Pan Am and loved the 747 too much to choose this replica dining experience…the real thing will always remain vivid in my memory.

  12. Perhaps the New York site could utilize a 707. I might know where he could get one cheap!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  13. Nice job Cranky – anything to bring light to those PA folks who later showed the newbys how/ why their crew staff was from the very best humanity had to offer Zed

  14. Well done Anthony. Are you reading the announcements in at least two languages? That is a must! No conga line, that’s just no klassey.

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