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With a waiting list of more than 90,000 customers, Pan American World Airways might have needed a name change — to Pan American Out-of-this-World Airways. That’s because the waiting list was for flights to the Moon.
The list began in 1964, when a man in Austria called a travel agency and asked to book a trip. The agency referred him to Pan Am, one of the world’s leading airlines. Pan Am politely put him on a waiting list.
When word about the list got out, a few hundred others added their names to it over the next few years. But the list took off in late 1968, when Apollo 8 put the first astronauts in lunar orbit. And it got even bigger a few months later, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first to land on the Moon.
Pan Am never took money or issued reservations. Instead, those on the list became members of the First Moon Flights Club, and received a numbered membership card. The club was so popular that Stanley Kubrick featured Pan Am space shuttles in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. And Pan Am even promoted the club in its advertising.
The list grew so long that the airline closed it 50 years ago today. But it told those already on the list that it was still planning to send them to the Moon as soon as possible.
It was not to be, though. Pan Am went bankrupt in 1991. Members of the First Moon Flights Club were left with their membership cards — and thoughts of what might have been.