"I'm inclined to tell Pan Am (Pan American World Airways) to go to hell," said Civil Aeronautics Board chairman Alfred E. Kahn yesterday.
What attracted the chairman's ire about the large international airline was Pan Am's action in selling about 1,600 discount tickets for flights across the Atlantic, starting today, without government approval.
Pan Am had proposed to the CAB a new budget fare of $256 roundtrip, to take effect today. It began advertising the fares a few weeks ago, with a footnote telling consumers that the prices were subject to government approval.
Last Friday, that approval was denied and Pan Am, somewhat anxious about passengers expected to show up for flights starting this week (and unable to pay the normal $626 fare) appealed to the CAB for a special waiver. That waiver was denied Tuesday.
But about 60 persons have been told to show up in London today for flights from London to New York at the budget rate. Another 230 people have such tickets for flights across the Atlantic on Friday. Nearly all the tickets sold were to residents of the New York area. The airline will have difficulty contacting the customers before their arrival at airports, a Pan Am spokesman said.
The CAB met in "emergency" session yesterday to consider yet another appeal for a waiver from Pan Am, but failed to reach a solution. A further meeting is planned this morning.
Complicating the issue, according to a CAB spokesman, is the fact that the agency notified both Pan Am and Trans World Airlines several weeks ago that since approval for budget fares had not been given, the earliest date at which reservations should be made was Sept. 26. That's the first date Britain has said it would allow cut-rate North Atlantic fares.
TWA complied with the CAB suggestion and did not make any reservations until after Sept. 25 but, according to the CAB spokesman, "Pan Am refused."
At yesterday meeting, the CAB staff recommended that the request for waiver be denied on the grounds that it would set a bad precedent Kahn saw Pan Am's appeal as an attempt at an "end run" around CAB regulation and said the airline should solve a problem it had created.
But board member Elizabeth Bailey, while sympathetic to Kahn's suggestion, said that since a new era of expanded budget service across the North Atlantic is about to begin, no action should be approved that would inconvenience consumers.
Whatever the CAB finally decides (the consensus last night appeared to be 3-2 in favor of the waiver), some party will be angry. If Pan Am gets its waiver, TWA will get a lesson in following CAB suggestions. If the waiver is denied, some consumers likely will be stranded.
Meanwhile, Pan Am chairman William Seawell told an audience in Tokyo yesterday that new low-cost fares will be good for the airline industry. But for budget fares to be successful, average flights will have to be 90 per cent occupied, he said, according to United Press International.