The Pan Am Podcast

Episode 20: Flying for TWA, Pan Am, and Living in Afghanistan

April 18, 2022 Pan Am Museum Foundation Season 1 Episode 20
The Pan Am Podcast
Episode 20: Flying for TWA, Pan Am, and Living in Afghanistan
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Show Notes

In this 20th episode, we are joined by Mary Lou Bigelow, a former TWA air hostess from 1959–1962 and a Pan Am stewardess/purser from 1962-1964. She discusses working for the two airlines and what it was like to live in Afghanistan.

In 1964, Mary Lou married a pilot, whom she met in Beirut, Lebanon while working a 14-day NYC-HKG pattern. Pan Am still had a policy that female flight attendants hang up their wings once they married, but she continued working for Pan Am in reservations and later as a ticket sales agent at the Miami, Florida downtown office. 

From 1968 through 1972, Captain John Bigelow and Mary Lou lived in Kabul, Afghanistan, where John was the chief training pilot on a Pan Am Technical Assistance Program (TAP) with Ariana Afghan Airlines. This was a peaceful period in Afghan history under King Mohammed Zahir Shah until the 1973 Afghan coup d'état led by Army General and Prince Mohammed Daoud Khan, a year after the Bigelow's moved back to the United States. 

From 1974 to late 1975, the Bigelows lived in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), while Captain Bigelow served as Director of Operations for Air Zaire under Pan Am’s TAP program there.

She returned to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2004 as part of her television program.

Currently, Mary Lou is president of the Boston Chapter of World Wings International.

Mary Lou is a successful real estate agent in the Boston area with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty.  

For more information and to see her blog and cable TV interview shows - Mary Lou Bigelow Show, The Global Connection and Afghanistan Series, visit

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A very special thanks to Mr. Adam Aron, Chairman and CEO of AMC and president of the Pan Am Historical Foundation and Pan Am Brands for their continued and unwavering support!