Once upon a time, a stewardess could speak two languages, mix a perfect martini, correctly address a prime minister, and prepare a Passover meal in flight. She was svelte, she was single, and she knew how to evacuate a jet in the dark, upside down, underwater. A Pan Am stewardess, that is. In Come Fly the World, Julia Cooke traces the careers of a group of women who flew with Pan Am from the launch of the jet age in 1958 to the crash of the company in 1991.
Getting the job was the first hurdle, and Pan Am set a high bar. With airfares regulated by the government, the quality of in-flight service was a major selling point; the airline accepted no more than 5 percent of applicants. Height, weight, and age requirements were industry standards (with a special emphasis on hip measurement, since the hips were constantly in the seated passengers’ eyeline), but Pan Am searched for women who projected a sophisticated poise that matched its role as America’s only airline dedicated exclusively to international flights.