In 1995, Martin Shugrue, a former Pan Am executive, and Charles Cobb, once the Ambassador to Iceland, got together to form an airline.
Marty happened to know where they could lease some Airbus A300’s cheap. As “executor of the will” for Eastern Airlines, it was in his best interest to get some of Eastern’s jets flying.
Chuck’s company happened to own the Pan Am name and logo, which it bought at auction in ’93, as well as an operating airline, Chalk’s International Airlines, a seaplane operation that operates on Biscayne Bay.
So in September of 1996, an A300 named Clipper Fair Wind reintroduced scheduled service from Miami to JFK. The check-in was a little storefront in the IAB, shared with Icelandair and ALIA. But the food was hot, the planes were big and clean, the movie was funny, and the price was right. The next day, Clipper America flew from JFK to Los Angeles.
Smiling Pan Am crew on opening day at JFK If you recognise any of these people please email me their names
The original Pan Am II facility at JFK was in the east wing of the International Arrivals Building, shared with Icelandair and ALIA (Royal Jordanian).
N860PA Clipper Fleetwind an Airbus A300 being tugged away from Pier A at Miami International
Pan Am expanded fast. Within a year, they were flying to Santo Domingo, San Juan and Chicago too. Two jets had grown to five (plus two wet-leased 727’s), and two vice-presidents had grown to 17.
The little storefront terminal in the IAB was not enough. Pan Am rented half of Terminal 6, the old National building which the first Pan Am had once occupied. This terminal is now home to jetBlue. I’ve heard stories that David Neelman of jetBlue attempted to purchase the Pan Am name for his airline… wouldn’t that have been something?
Chalk’s became Pan Am Air Bridge, a nod to Pan Am’s flying-boat past.
The next plan was to merge with Carnival Airlines, a nearly-bankrupt discount carrier spawned from the cruise industry giant, that operated in competition with Pan Am on a number of routes. There were those who say Carnival’s owners saw it as a convenient way to get their name off the planes before the inevitable happened.
The result was a disaster. The level of service deteriorated, dispatch reliability was terrible and people became disgusted. One plane was dubbed the “roach coach” because of a persistent infestation.
N860PA Clipper Fair Wind at Miami Int’l
Photo © Christian Paolino
Unauthorized Reproduction Prohibited
The ValuJet crash did little to help the public’s perception of discount air carriers. The big airlines were determined to undersell the little guys, who had little other than cost to offer as an incentive.
By September, just a year after its birth, the new company was in trouble. It jettisoned the Airbuses and began dropping cities left and right. Soon there was nothing left.
Pan Am declared bankruptcy in early 1998 and stopped flying scheduled service. Martin Shugrue died in 1999, a broken man. Family and friends said he never recovered from the failure of his dream to get Pan Am back to its glorious past.