Today we have international airlines, domestic trunk lines, regional carriers and commuters.
There are shuttles, discount carriers, and charter lines. We've got cargo outfits, overnight
express carriers, even helicopter airlines. With such a fabulous variety of commercial
service available, it may be difficult for some people to imagine that in 1941 there were
just two kinds of airlines: Pan Am, and all the rest.
While most other carriers were struggling to maintain service between a handful of cities
around the country, Pan Am was flying scheduled service to the far corners of the world. It
had only begun operation in 1928, flying passengers on its single route between Key West and
Havana. When I was hired just thirteen years later, Pan Am's routes extended from South and
Central America, through the Caribbean, to the United States. It had built stations on
islands across the Pacific, and by the late 1930s its aircraft were flying as far south as
New Zealand and west from California to the Philippines and China. By 1939 it conquered the
Atlantic as well, carrying passengers from New York to Ireland, England and Portugal.