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by Allen J. Sheinman | October 01, 2011
Flying Right

A new Natural Element store has opened at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, offering organic, recycled and sustainable clothing and accessories for travelers. shopsatMSP.com

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Before everything changed on a certain September morning in 2001, the world of commercial air travel was fun, exciting and glamorous -- a time that will be lovingly recalled at the Pan Am Worldwide Family Reunion scheduled to be held Oct. 20-23 and hosted at Marriott's Courtyard Miami Coconut Grove in South Florida.

For younger readers, Pan American World Airways was founded in 1927 as an air-mail and passenger service between Key West, Fla., and Havana, Cuba, and grew to become one of the world's major airlines, pioneering in the use of jumbo jets, computerized reservation systems and inflight TV before going out of business in 1991.

"All former Pan Am employees, friends and family are invited," says Mary F. Dior, Miami-based special-events planner and publisher of the Panamigo News (panamigo.com) for airline alumni. That "family" today is far-flung, and Dior expects attendees from as far away as France, Norway, Argentina and Chile.

"We started planning about a year ago," Dior notes, "and a committee of former Pan Am workers helped create the program." Among the many events on tap are a private tour of the restored mansion of flight-industry legend Glenn Curtiss in Miami Springs, a gala party at the Coast Guard Hangar on Biscayne Bay and lots of schmoozing about the good old days, when on-time service and passenger comfort were the twin pillars of the flying experience.

The time is right, says Dior, "because it's 20 years since Pan Am folded, 100 years since commercial flight began in Miami, and there's a new show [on ABC-TV] this fall called Pan Am, about working for the airline in the early 1960s.

"We expect about 600 former pilots, mechanics, reservation specialists and stewardesses," Dior adds, "and yes, in our group, they prefer not to be called flight attendants."