Flying Down To Rio

Vintage Pan Am ad passengers in plane

Start your Rio holiday in style. Vintage Pan American Airways ad 1954

Tourists once flocked to Rio for its tropical thrills.

With its pulsing musical background of samba and mambo, travel brochures boasted that because of “Rio’s modern accommodations and ideal location being in the path of cooling trade winds, Rio de Janeiro  has an enviable health record.”

A tropical adventure awaited a lucky tourist.

Today, adventures are more likely to involve muggings and dangerous mosquito bites.

Rio de Janeiro has olympic sized problems. Brazil is plagued by crime, water pollution, a financial crisis, body parts washing ashore and a major health threat from mosquito borne Zika virus.

Travel Rio Copacabana Beach 1951

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro. Vintage ad Pan American Airways 1951

But there was a time when the very name Rio de Janeiro would weave a spell of exotic excitement, romance and adventure. Called the Paris of South America  “this is the most exciting city in the world,” vintage travel ads proclaimed, “and that its pleasure will offer fulfillment to the dreams of the most extravagantly expectant visitor.”

Getting there was half the fun, especially if you flew  Pan American’s El Presidente.

Flying down to Rio in 1952, N.Y. suburbanites Dorothy  and Jim MacArthur felt like royalty…if not like Mamie and Ike. They were flying in style on El Presidente the finest, fastest, and most luxurious way to travel to Rio.

Pan Am really rolled out the red carpet for tourists wanting to fly to exotic South America in the early 1950’s.

Imagine, step aboard at N.Y. and depart in Rio in a mere 20 2/3 hours.

Imagine being in this land of enchantment, the thrill of being in a fabulous foreign land , of  the soft tropic nights and sun drenched days  in less than 24 hours!

In 1952 it seemed unimaginable.

Why be old-fashioned and get there in 13 days by cruise ship?

Flying Down to Rio

Travel Pan Am El Presidente ad

Vintage ad for Pan American Airways “El Presidente” to South.

So in August when Dorothy and Jim began planning their winter vacation, the capital of  a friendly southern neighbor with its resort city offering a bonanza of relaxation, entertainment and interest beckoned. Since south of the equator the seasons are reversed, these winter weary New Yorker’s  were ready to laugh and loaf in the sunny summer sun of Rio’s famous Copacabana beach.

They  headed straight to their travel agent to plan their trip.

vintage illustration passengers on Pan Am

“It’s fun on the lower deck club lounge of El Presidente. Stroll down anytime to chat, enjoy refreshments. You have lots of room to move around on the big double decked “Strato Clippers.” Vintage ad Pan American Airways to South America 1952

Because the high-speed luxury flights of El Presidente provided the only double-decked airliner service to South America, Roland their travel agent enthusiastically explained its deluxe services.

At the time , Pan American offered the traveler your choice, direct from NY, of money-saving El Turista or the very finest – El Presidente. “But,” Roland smiled, “why be just a plain old Turista when you could fly like a Presidente!

Jim knew this was no time to scrimp.

“And talk about the luxuries aboard,” the travel agent declared fairly swooning.

This was without question the Blue Ribbon service of Western Hemisphere.

Panagra airline couple

Enjoy gourmet meals. Vintage ad Panagra and Pan American Airways to South America

“You enjoy magnificent meals – including a 7 course continental dinner, served with cocktails, champagne, vintage wines, and liquors liqueurs. Extra cabin attendants provide swift, impeccable service.”

“And in these new Clippers – the fastest in Pan Am’s world-wide fleet – you breathe sky pure air, changed driftlessly every 90 seconds,” he explained.

Travel ad Pan American Luxory South America

Vintage Pan American Airways ad 1952

And the best part was you arrive at your destination refreshed!

“On El President nobody sits up a night. Everybody sleeps, except the pilot,”  he joked.

Travel Airline TWA sleeperette

Sleep peacefully in a Sleeperette on TWA

A passenger could have  your choice of Sleeperette service at no extra charge. The  Pan Americans exclusive Sleeperette  aboard El Presidente gave the traveler  a bed length, reclining, soft nylon upholstered seat  with double the usual leg room. Or you could have  a berth at slight additional cost. There were  15 upper berths at $10 and 2 lower berths at $20 which were big, wide and comfortable.

“And finally for m’ladies…Orchids and Lanvin’s Arpege perfume,” the travel agent explained with a grand flourish to Dorothy.

Vintage passenger getting off Pan Am airplane

Arrived refreshed in Rio. Vintage Pan American Airways ad 1952

El Presidente leaves N.Y. Mondays Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:00AM. Your first stop is Port of Spain early in the same evening. 9:40 the next morning you step out fresh as a daisy at Rio de Janeiro.

This was the way to travel!


 © Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. I’d swear the guy holding the glass of scotch in the top ad is Don Draper…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: