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A high-flying TV show.

FANS of Pan Am, an American period drama series recently screened on OSN, are hoping the series takes off for a second season.

The exhilarating early days of commercial air travel have been highlighted in the show which has a host of followers in Bahrain as result of the kingdom's long standing relationship with the aviation industry.

The TV series, created by writer Jack Orman, focuses on the pilots and stewardesses of an airline operating in the early 1960s.

Services in Bahrain actually started 10 years earlier than that with Gulf Aviation Company. The airline started as a small scale commuter service, serving the oil fields of the Gulf and some regional customers. Today, its predecessor Gulf Air flies to more than 40 destinations worldwide.

Former Gulf Air flight attendant, Michaela Al Khalo, a British-born mother-of-two, from Buquwa, said: "I believe Pan Am is being received by stewardesses with a smile. "I am sure some crew will identify with individual characters. The series can be a little exaggerated at times but it does bring back great memories.

"Although I never had the opportunity to attend a ball whilst away from base, as featured in one of the storylines, I was once fortunate enough to attend the wedding of a crew member's brother in Indonesia.

"The entire crew, from the captain and first-officer down, attended and we were all treated like VIPs. It was a truly memorable experience."

Michaela, 39, grew up dreaming of becoming a flight attendant and realised her ambition in 1997. She continued to fly with Gulf Air for four years and has remained in the aviation industry, currently working as a base administrator for British Airways.

"The thought of travelling all over the world appealed to me," she said. "What I hadn't realised beforehand, however, was how flying regularly through various time zones was so exhausting.

"It was important to keep well by eating a healthy diet, resting and going to the gym. I'm not sure if that is portrayed in the series. Yes, it can be a glamorous lifestyle, it's not nine-to-five, but it is very hard work.

"There were uniform guidelines for all crew which gave us the minimum cosmetic requirements plus how to wear the uniform.

"There was also a grooming department who were on hand to advise you on different hair styles, which cosmetic colours complemented skin tones etc. Height and weight were monitored by the grooming department as well."

Michaela has now settled down in the kingdom and is married to Hussain, the Bahraini owner of Harmony and Watch by Harmony and Gold Art. They have two children, Faris, nine, and Maya, seven.

The executive producer of the show, Nancy Hult Ganis, was a former flight attendant herself and based the show on the reality of the job that she experienced at the time.

National carrier Gulf Air offers selected candidates an intensive 13-week training course to become full-fledged flight crew. The positive representation of stewardesses in the TV show is likely to have increased interest in the career.

Cabin services manager, Grainne Currid, 43, has been working with Gulf Air for 17 years. The flight attendant from Jurdab said: "I have had a lot of good experiences with Gulf Air, for example travelling to places I would never have seen before or been able to see if I had stayed in Ireland. Also, I have met people from all around the world, and have friends of many different nationalities. I love working in Bahrain and regard it as my second home.

"Lots of things can happen in-flight and we are all trained to deal with them if they arise, for example, if a passenger is sick or emotionally upset, looking after young children, special meal requirements for passengers which have not been ordered, entertainment problems and, believe it or not, passengers behaving badly!

"The crew has many roles; medical, engineer, security, caretaker, safety, chef, problem solver and, of course, a shoulder to cry on."

The TV show stars Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner, Margot Robbie and Karine Vanasse and despite critical acclaim and award-winning success (in May, it won the Golden Rose Award for Best Series at the international Rose d'Or TV awards, beating The Runaway and The Jury) its future has hit turbulence.

The series premiere attracted 11.06 million viewers in the US alone but by its 12th episode viewership was down to 3.74 million. It has been reported in the US that Sony Pictures Television has had conversations about picking up the series for a second season because of its international success.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Aug 1, 2012
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