The Pan Am Podcast

Episode 22: Max Gurney - WWII Hero, Airline Legend, and Renaissance Gentleman

June 05, 2022 Pan Am Museum Foundation Season 1 Episode 22
The Pan Am Podcast
Episode 22: Max Gurney - WWII Hero, Airline Legend, and Renaissance Gentleman
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Show Notes

In this special episode we are joined by Max Gurney, who will celebrate his 101st birthday on June 10, 2022! The Pan Am Museum and the entire worldwide Pan Am community wish him the happiest of birthdays! 

Max is a 45-year veteran of Pan Am and a living legend within the airline community. He is also the godfather to His Serine Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco. 

Max was kind enough to invite host Tom Betti into his home for a chat.

He tells us about his childhood, serving in the U.S. Army under General Patton during World War II, and then beginning his storied career at Pan Am after the war. 

Max Gurney joined Pan American Airways in 1946 as a ticket counter agent at the Marine Terminal at La Guardia Airport, located in Flushing, New York. 

Because of his ability to speak four languages, he was quickly promoted to Sales Manager in Dakar, Senegal with jurisdiction over five countries in West Africa.

In 1949, Max opened the Pan Am office in Milan, and was reassigned shortly after in 1950 to Beirut as Sales Manager on loan to Middle East Airlines (MEA), as part of a management contract with Pan Am. He was responsible for airline operations in six Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia.

In 1951, he was appointed Assistant District Sales Manager in Rome, Italy covering six countries, and then transitioned in 1957 to Senior Representative and District Sales Manager for Southern France based in Nice where he formed a very close personal friendship with Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and his wife, Princess Grace, the former American actress Grace Kelly. 

Their friendship grew so close that when their son Prince Albert was born, the Prince and Princess asked Max to be the child’s godfather.

In 1972, Max was transferred to Nassau as Managing Director for the Bahamas, including the Freeport and Rock Sound stations, until the Bahamas offices were closed in 1976. 

He subsequently became District Traffic and Sales Manager in Oslo, Norway until 1980, and then once again returned to Monaco as Pan Am Sales Manager. This was because of his close personal friendship with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.

He held this position until the closure of Pan Am in 1991 and assisted with the transition to Pan Am’s successor in the market.

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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!