After 10 unsuccessful years trying to make a profit in the land of the commissar, Pan American World Airways yesterday ended its scheduled Moscow-New York air service with the departure of Flight 67, en route to Frankfort for connection with a New York-bound plane.
Hailed in 1968 when the service was inaugurated as the first step in a process of expanding - and hopefully profitable - contacts between the worlds of capitalism and communism, the Pan Am flights were the only scheduled Moscow service of a U.S. carrier.
But the record of the Moscow operation has been written mostly in red ink, in part because of the hardnosed techniques of the Soviets, who over the years were accused repeatedly by the Americans of unfairly discouraging travel on Pan Am in favor of the Soviet airline, Aeroflot.
The airline's problems were compounded by a lack of market in this country of sharply restrictive travel practices and by Soviet reluctance to spend hard currency for a flight on a U.S. carrier when they could pay their own soft currency rubles for an Aeroflot flight between the countries.
Added to this were other more exotic problems: Pan Am was barred by the diplomatic arrangements governing its operations here from selling tickets. Only Aeroflot sell tickets here. The U.S. company, because of antitrust regulations, was prevented from pooling passenger revenues with Aeroflot to equalie income, a practice that other Capitalist airlines flying here engage in.
Suspension of the New York-Moscow flights is part of a major Pan Am withdrawal from Eastern Bloc countries this fall. By the end of the month, there will be direct U.S. carrier scheduled flights available on Pan Am only between the U.S. and Warsaw. Pan Am service to Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest and Prague has been called off because the airline projected higher operating costs in the next few years that would make these routes not worth flying. part of the company's projections talk into account the newly competitive situations in the North Atlantic and other lucrative runs because of Carter administration air pricing policies.
Private travel abroad, so common in the United States is ararity here, so rare in fact that Pan Am never advertised its services beyond a single poster in a window of the Metropole Hotel downtown, where the carrier's offices are located. Soviets traveling abroad usually do so in official delegations or groups, and, like official U.S. government groups, are required to fly in their own country's carrier wherever possible. The practical effect of this has been to ensure that virtually all Soviets buying tickets here for New York fly Aeroflot.
According to Pan Am resident director Walter Nelson, the passenger disadvantage for his flights has been narrowed in recent years from three-to-one. But because there is so little private travel by Soviets, pan Am has been force to compete with the twelve capitalist airlines with service here for the patronage of the growing, but nevertheless small, foreign community that has both the money and the freedom to travel easily beyond Soviet borders.