Life, Love and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir


Ever dreamed of what it would be like to travel the world?
Well Wendy Knecht had that thought when she was in college too, she took her leap of faith, became a Pan Am flight attendant, lived through a million and one adventures and has now written a new book ‘Life, Love and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir’ chronicling her journey. Wendy sat down with TheYLife for an exclusive interview and some spilled secrets from 37,000 feet up!

Wendy started from the beginning, Pan Am! Now, you Gen Y’s may not know much more about this airline– than its famous vintage inspired fashion and rebooted TV series a few seasons ago… But, Pan American World Airways was a leader in the airline industry, in fact it was the largest international air carrier in the United States from 1927 until 1991.

Rumor has it flying Pan Am was an incredible experience…

“Pan Am’s slogan,“The World’s Most Experienced Airline” was true… Everything about Pan Am was first class, and a notch above any other carrier. First Class service included caviar and Champagne on every flight, with 5 courses of food served from elegant linen carts. Even the Chateaubriand was carved to order, right at your seat.”

To say Pan Am set a high standard of excellence, not just with its service, but with its crew members…

“The flight attendants were all required to have at least two years of college, have fluency in a second language, and of course, adhere to strict weight requirements. Everyone took pride in their appearance, which added to the glamour of flying Pan Am.”

As I read through Wendy’s book I realized how being a flight attendant is like having the key to the world at your fingertips. Now I can only imagine, the experiences one would encounter, as a young lady and the transformation of becoming an independent and empowered woman. So we wondered what characteristic Wendy attained on this journey of personal- growth?

“I was 22 years old, and had just graduated from the University of Arizona. The first characteristic that comes to mind is “adaptability.” We were put into so many different situations and environments, and you had to “go with the flow.” Everything about the job was unpredictable, so cultivating an adaptable personality was a must!”

From the title of Wendy’s new memoir, we could tell there had also been some dangerously exciting adventures occurring in flight… I was just dying to know, which had been the wildest experience at 30,000 feet?

“There are definitely a lot of those in the book… but I’d have to say that meeting a passenger on a flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong, who turned out to be a friend of my dad. We met 10 years after my dad had passed away, and it was an incredible coincidence and learning experience.”

One of the best parts of Life, Love and a Hijacking were the tips and tricks to the trade of Travel shared by one of its experts, and we couldn’t help but wonder which Cities across the globe, had marked Wendy’s heart as the most memorable…

Hong Kong: the energy, the sights, the smells and the excitement are around every corner. I have so many great memories of wonderful layovers there.

New York: I could go to NY a million times, and it would never be the same trip twice. There is always something new to discover… Also my favorite walking city.

Positano, Italy: Absolutely gorgeous, as are all the cities on the Amalfi Coast! Positano is among the most picturesque places I have ever been.

Rome: Driving from the airport makes you feel like you’re on a movie set, with the backdrop of ancient Rome. Incredible sights, the best food, shopping, and lots of fabulous people watching!

Prague: Set on the Vltava River, it’s not only one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but has history from just about every era in time. The architecture is breathtaking. The historic town center is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

One of my favorite parts of Wendy’s book was her appetite for sharing her Foodie tendencies, from the Perfect Pan Am recipes, to her chronicles of how the taste and smell of certain countries still tantalizes her very memories.

“It didn’t take long for me to realize that one of the greatest parts
of my job was being able to literally eat my way around the
world. I never considered myself a gourmand, but Pan Am exposed me to the finer points of dining… I loved eating paella in Caracas, Nasi goreng in Singapore,
île flottante in Paris, mussels in Brussels, and the myriad of
other gastronomical delicacies from the street vendors and cooks who were born to make them.” (Life, Love and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir)

Now this might not be a question Wendy gets asked in most interviews, although we do NEED to keep this PG… we know you are all wondering… Does the Mile High Club really exist?

Oh yes! Read Chapter 26!”

Giggles, Giggles and more Giggles! We knew it, we just knew it! So I assumed after the mile high club, my next question was rhetorical, but when I asked Y every reader should log online to order her new book, Wendy exclaimed…

Because Life, Love, and a Hijacking will take you on a personal and historical journey of what air travel used to be, and how it evolved.
It’s also very funny at times, and sad and poignant at others. It is my hope that my story of personal growth is inspirational as well, and will leave the reader with the feeling that anything is possible.”

P.S… I had almost forgotten to ask one last thing… True or False?! Is it true that Airlines like Pan Am
would weight-check their flight attendants?

Absolutely, as you will read about. Weight limits were strictly adhered to, and we took this very seriously! The official weight chart is even in my book.”

So… if you happen to bump into Wendy as she is scouring the world, looking for adventure, make sure to stop her in her tracks for some travel tips!

I know I am looking forward to trying out this Jubilee recipe… You? For many more check out the memoir!

Pan Am Cherries Jubilee:
Standard fare on First Class menus, sans the flames.
Outstanding, with or without the ice cream. The perfect
middle-of-the-night pick-me-up for exhausted flight attendants.
1 14-ounce can pitted Bing cherries, with juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. butter
1/3 cup brandy
Vanilla ice cream

Drain cherries, and save the liquid.
In a medium sauce pan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch.
Gradually mix in the cherry liquid, and bring to a boil over
medium heat, stirring constantly.
Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for three minutes, stirring
occasionally. Stir in the lemon juice, cherries, and butter and
continue to simmer for another three minutes.
Add the brandy at the last minute as the cherry mixture
To Serve:
Put vanilla ice cream into a bowl. Pour the warmed cherries
mixture and enjoy Pan Am in-flight style. For a real treat if
you’re on the ground, warm the brandy separately and pour
on the cherry mixture and light with a match. Ladle flaming
cherries over ice cream, and serve immediately