Pam Ann is the airline geek’s comedian. She makes having a plane fetish cool. She’s a throwback to the days when flying was elegant, when Branniff’s flight attendants did “The Air Strip” out of Pucci-designed uniforms.
For the last 13 years, she’s been known to change her material from night to night, tailoring it to her audience. When in Toronto, she’ll customize her show for the Air Canada, Porter and WestJet crews in the house—and mercilessly make fun of them in the process. The next night, she’ll roast JetBlue employees in New York, or Delta staff in Atlanta.
You just have to watch her videos to know she’s got a very special relationship with flight attendants. Her “touch trolley, look important” routine and her Pam Ann Airways promotional video are searing takeoffs on this much-maligned profession.
Which raises the question: Why do flight attendants—who aren’t exactly known for having a sense of humour about their jobs— love her so much? She’s been particularly brutal to British Airways, yet even they hired her to produce a mock training video.
For one thing, her sketches and routines are made up of airline operational “inside jokes” that even customers love. And deep down, you know she has real affection for airline folks and what they go through. Ultimately, she’s sharing a laugh with them about the absurdity of serving coffee while flying through the sky in a sealed metal tube.
Read our interview with the hilariously sarcastic Pam Ann/Caroline Reid after the jump:
Let’s talk stereotypes. How do Western airlines differ from Asian or Middle Eastern carriers, for example, in terms of service?
I’m biased since I do their ads but I actually like the attitude of British Airways hostesses. I like the whole Britishness of it. They get the job done. You know those b****es will get you off a burning wreckage if they had to!
You don’t mess with the German cabin crew. They’re hardcore. I had this one serving me on my last Lufthansa flight: “We’ve counted our meals and we don’t have any more for you!!!” I was like, “OK, it’s fine, it’s fine.”
El Al got the whole security thing right from the beginning, didn’t they? And they’re hot too! I’d plant something on me just to get patted down by those sexy Israelis. And they have that look in their eyes, which makes it even more thrilling.
What’s your take on inflight magazines?
I love the maps at the back. I love taking out the magazine and saying, “I’ve been here, I’ve been here,” then turning to the person sitting next to me and saying, “So where have you been?” The magazines I don’t like are the ones that don’t have much content. They’re all ads! I like to read the articles. That’s what an inflight magazine is for. People are stuck, you have an audience. Tell them something!
What sorts of movies do you like to watch on an airplane?
I saw “My Mother’s Keeper” with Cameron Diaz on my flight over. After the third glass of red wine I was just buckets of tears and people were walking by and I was like, “I’m fine! I’m just watching a movie!”
Are you excited about inflight WiFi?
I never take out my computer on an airplane. I like to switch off so no one could get in touch with me. It’s really the last place left where I can have some peace and quiet and not worry about checking my email. Why would you want to take that away?
What’s the funniest airline brand?
Southwest is a little bit funny. Some of the flight attendants get on and tell bad airline jokes. Some of them even sing! That’s not my idea of a good time.
But isn’t that exactly what Pam Ann does?
But darling, there’s a difference. Pam Ann’s not really real. It’s all make believe! My idea of getting on a plane with Pam Ann would be my idea of hell. I’d be like, “Oh, shut up!”
So what’s the funniest airline uniform?
BMI flight attendants look like Salvation Army collectors. They look like they should be at Hogwarts Terminal 4. Austrian Airlines has everything red. They look like the child catchers from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Tim Gunn from Project Runway really needs to sort them out. I told that to Austria’s First Lady once. She said she liked the uniforms. Obviously, she was wearing red. They all wear red in Austria!
Lots of your comedy revolves around class. How has the recession changed this aspect of air travel?
You’re the most aware of where you stand in the world when you walk into an airport. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. If you’re in economy, you’re always looking at the First Class people saying, “Oh, look at them.” If you’re in First Class you’re like, “Everyone else can f*** off!”
At some airlines they’ll look down at you if you’re in business, because you’re still not in first: “You’re not getting that extra canapé. You still haven’t made it, so don’t get all smart with us just yet!”
Is there anything glamorous about air travel anymore?
I think so. I don’t mind security, to be honest. I don’t mind a good pat down! If you’re at the back of the plane then forget it, but if you’re in the front I think there’s still a little bit of glamour there.
Have you flown Virgin Atlantic out of Heathrow? They’ve created this Virgin world where you don’t have to interact with the other people in the airport. All the girls are blonde and gorgeous: “Do you need help with your seat?” I got one girl to show me how to work the seat and she was all over me! Now that’s full service.
What’s been the biggest change in the airline industry since Pam Ann started flying?
The charter airlines. Growing up in Australia, we would watch planes take off and it was like, “Wow, where are they going?” We were in the middle of nowhere. Then the industry grew and flying became cheaper and now people can see the world.
I say, screw the carbon footprint! See the world. The truth is, if we didn’t have the charter industry I wouldn’t have a show. No one would know what I was talking about!
Photos used by permission
UPDATE: Our colleagues at Spafax Interactive have created a series of awesome Layover Guide iPhone apps for Pam Ann, now available in the Apple App Store. We’re proud to have played matchmaker on this one!
Also, check out our sister magazine enRoute’s cool interview with Pam Ann on travel etiquette. The Pam Ann love never stops!