Come Fly The World by Julia Cooke

There's one place we go, a place unlike any other gives us that one feeling we can't find anywhere else. It's a feeling of excitement and stimulation. In those moments you feel like you can do anything, that you are invincible. 

Perhaps it's the rush after a marathon, or maybe an amusement park after an exhilarating rollercoaster, or maybe you just did a free-solo at one of the highest altitude mountains somewhere in California. 

Regardless, whatever it is, it gets your heart beating, and your blood pumping. 

For me, my thrills are filled right before take off, wheels tucking under, speed increasing, plane tilting and taking to the skies. That’s what gets my blood pumping. I'm a travel junkie. 

I've spent my life scouring the pages of Condé Nast Traveler and peeping through the windows of travel agents, dreaming of the wonderful places I'll go. I've been lucky to have parents that have taken my sister and I on many trips around Europe, and jobs that have taken me to the US and Asia. 

Travel is in my DNA. I couldn't have imagined a world without it until the pandemic hit last year and we were forced to stay home. Until then, I had traveled at least once every few months. And as I write this, I haven't left my home in Vancouver for over 12 months. I still pick up CN Traveler, I still scroll through Expedia, and I'm still planning my next trip, even though I have no idea when that will be. 

Itching for an excursion, I got stuck into Come Fly the World by Julia Cooke last weekend, a fascinating jet-age story about the stewardesses of the world's most glamorous airline, Pan Am.

And so with that, ladies and gentlemen, come join me on my latest reading adventure. I assure you there will be no turbulence, you are not required to wear a seatbelt (unless of course you are driving, in which case you shouldn’t be reading), and best of all, you will not require a facemask or a COVID vaccine. Free entertainment will be brought to you by me, myself, and I. 

Come Fly the World follows several glamazonian stewardesses, and the first we meet is Lynne Totten. When she first applied to work for Pan Am, Lynne held a biology degree and could have been a teacher, a researcher, a real contributor to society in those days. But Lynne wanted to be a Stewardess, her reasoning being that "there's a whole world out there".

Another stewardess, Karen, who we meet later in the book, explains her reason for joining Pam Am as "life is too short to waste even one precious year on dullness". I like the way you think, Karen.

The parents of the girls looked down upon the title of stewardess, and I think that title still holds the same stigma today. Some slang terms are "trolley dolly", and "waitress in the sky", which makes me think that people often forget that stewardesses are often extremely knowledgeable on international cultures and politics, with many speaking several languages. They're typically in charge of life-or-death safety protocols, and are trained in deescalating hijackers. Maybe think of that next time one of these trolley dollies passes by to refill your champagne. 

Tim Graham/Getty Images

Traveling was part of the reasoning for joining the ranks but there were certainly more. Pan Am was once the world's most elite and glamorous airline, the one that set the standard in the global aviation industry. 

The stewardesses had strict rules and guidelines set out for them in their Horizons Unlimited orientations manual. The book required that the ladies were in uniform at all times; which meant white gloves, blue hats, hips trim beneath girdles, square blue bags hanging from their shoulders (which were to be filled with extra hose, fresh gloves, a clothes brush, hand lotion, and lipstick). The goal was for the stewardesses to appear feminine, sophisticated, clean, and ladylike, with their every angle enforcing the corporate identity of Pan Am.

Courtesy of Worthpoint

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the change in how we approach customers on board flights today compared to the 60s. Back in those days, when flying was reserved for the wealthy and airlines were competing for customers, Pan Am was gifting items such as orchids, perfumes, cigars, and seven course meals. These days, we're lucky if we get a lukewarm coffee and a pair of earplugs.

I loved learning about the fashion of the Pan Am stewardesses and the uniforms they wore. I'm glad to see that we continue to use current designers for our flight attendants today, such as Westwood for Virgin and Zac Posen for Delta. 

Overall, Come Fly the World gave me a behind the scenes look into what working on the world's most glamorous airline in the 1960s would have been like. It also gave a secret peak behind the accordion curtain, into the galley, and behind pressurized cabin doors, at the political situations that were arising and how they were being deescalated by Pan Am executives and stewardesses. This book took me on a ride around the world, to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and many other gorgeous places. 

Best of all, I didn't even have to leave my bed and have have absolutely no jet lag. 

My favourite part of the book is when Cooke is describing the TWA Pan Am terminal, which Vogue had recently taken over for a fashion editorial. While reading through this section, I had the accompanying visual of gorgeous Pan Am stewardesses, moving gracefully through the TWA terminal, they themselves like birds in flight. 

Courtesy of Forbes

Come Fly The World is available at Indigo and most other booksellers.

Something to note that I wasn't initially aware of: this book is a lot more politically heavy than I initially thought it would be so wasn't as light of a read as I was hoping, but still gave me wonderful insight and kept me engaged. 

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