Growing competition after WWII
Air transport's growing importance in the post-war era meant that Pan Am would no longer enjoy the official patronage it had been afforded in pre-war days to prevent the emergence of any meaningful competition, both at home and abroad.
Although Pan Am continued to use its considerable political influence to lobby for protection of its position as America's primary international airline, it encountered increasing competition — first from American Export Airlines (American Overseas Airlines (AOA) from November 1945) across the Atlantic to Europe, and subsequently from others including TWA to Europe, Braniff to South America, United to Hawaii and Northwest Orient to East Asia, as well as five potential rivals to Mexico. This changed situation resulted from a more enlightened approach of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) towards the promotion of competition between major U.S. carriers on key domestic and international scheduled routes compared with pre-war U.S. aviation policy.
Overseas expansion and fleet modernization
AOA was the first airline to begin regular landplane flights across the Atlantic, on October 24, 1945. In January 1946 Pan Am scheduled seven DC-4s a week east from LaGuardia Airport, five to London (Hurn airport) and two to Lisbon. Time to Hurn was 17 hours 40 minutes including stops, or 20 hours 45 minutes to Lisbon. A Boeing 314 flying boat flew LaGuardia to Lisbon once every two weeks in 29 hours 30 minutes; flying boat flights ended shortly thereafter.
TWA's transatlantic challenge – the impending introduction of its faster, pressurized Lockheed Constellations – resulted in Pan Am ordering its own Constellation fleet at $750,000 apiece. Pan Am began transatlantic Constellation flights on January 14, 1946, beating TWA by three weeks.
In January 1946 Miami to Buenos Aires took 71 hours 15 minutes in a Pan Am DC-3, but the following summer DC-4s flew Idlewild to Buenos Aires in 38 hr 30 min. In January 1958 Pan Am's DC-7Bs flew New York to Buenos Aires in 25 hours 20 minutes, while the National – Pan Am – Panagra DC-7B via Panama and Lima took 22 hours 45 minutes. Convair 240s replaced DC-3s and other pre-war types on Pan Am's shorter flights in the Caribbean and South America. Pan Am also acquired a few Curtiss C-46s for an freight network that eventually extended to Buenos Aires.
In January 1946 Pan Am had no transpacific flights beyond Hawaii, but they soon resumed with DC-4s. In January 1958 the California to Tokyo flight was a daily Stratocruiser that took 31 hours 45 minutes from San Francisco or 32 hours 15 minutes from Los Angeles. (A flight to Seattle and a connection to Northwest's DC-7C totaled 24 hours 13 minutes from San Francisco, but Pan Am was not allowed to fly that route.) The Stratocruisers' double-deck fuselage with sleeping berths and a lower-deck lounge helped it compete with its rival. "Super Stratocruisers" with more fuel appeared on Pan Am's transatlantic routes in November 1954, making nonstop eastward and one-stop westward schedules more reliably.
In June 1947 Pan Am started the first scheduled round-the-world airline flight. In September the weekly DC-4 was scheduled to leave San Francisco at 2200 Thursday as Flight 1, stopping at Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, Manila, Bangkok and arriving in Calcutta on Monday at 1245, where it met Flight 2, a Constellation that had left New York at 2330 Friday. The DC-4 returned to San Francisco as Flight 2; the Constellation left Calcutta 1330 Tuesday, stopped at Karachi, Istanbul, London, Shannon, Gander, and arrived LaGuardia Thursday at 1455. A few months later PA 3 took over the Manila route while PA 1 shifted to Tokyo and Shanghai. All Pan Am round-the-world flights included at least one change of plane until Boeing 707s took over in 1960. PA 1 became daily in 1962–63, making different en route stops on different days of the week; in January 1963 it left San Francisco at 0900 daily and was scheduled into New York 56 hr 10 min later. Los Angeles replaced San Francisco in 1968; when Boeing 747s finished replacing 707s in 1971 all stops except Tehran and Karachi were served daily in each direction. For a year or so in 1975–76 Pan Am finally completed the round-the-world trip, New York to New York.
In January 1950 Pan American Airways Corporation officially became Pan American World Airways, Inc. (The airline had begun calling itself Pan American World Airways in 1943.) In September 1950 Pan Am completed the $17.45 million purchase of American Overseas Airlines from American Airlines. That month Pan Am ordered 45 Douglas DC-6Bs. The first, Clipper Liberty Bell (N6518C), inaugurated Pan Am's all-tourist class Rainbow service between New York and London on May 1, 1952 to complement the all-first President Stratocruiser service. From June 1954, DC-6Bs began replacing DC-4s on Pan Am's internal German routes.
Pan Am introduced the Douglas DC-7C "Seven Seas" on transatlantic routes in summer 1956. In January 1958 the DC-7C nonstop took 10 hours 45 minutes Idlewild to London, enabling Pan Am to hold its own against TWA's Super Constellations and Starliners. In 1957 Pan Am started DC-7C flights direct from the West Coast of the United States to London and Paris with a fuel stop in Canada or Greenland. The introduction of the faster Bristol Britannia turboprop by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) between New York and London from December 19, 1957 ended Pan Am's competitive leadership there.
In January 1958 Pan Am scheduled 47 flights a week east from Idlewild to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond.