The rattle and hum of a subway car takes us back to New York in 1963. Kate is riding the train when a familiar man sits down beside her. It’s her handler with a new assignment. He tells her she’s going to be working a flight to Berlin. She needs to get a book from a particular book shop while she’s there and bring it back. Time to practice your German, Kate!
At the airport, the other stewardesses are excited about the trip to Berlin. Laura’s never been before and wonders if the city is as beautiful as people say. Maggie, who was a volunteer for President Kennedy’s campaign, is determined to see his speech and shake his hand. But Colette, who also has never been to Berlin, or Germany at all, doesn’t seem so enthusiastic. We can tell something’s going on with her. Maybe she’s still thinking about that dance with Dean in Paris? She shuts that theory down when she tells him, “It was a moment, Captain. A nice moment. But that was all.”
The flight to Berlin isn’t a typical flight with typical passengers. This time the Clipper Majestic is acting as a press charter and it’s packed with prominent and influential journalists flying over to report on the President’s speech. It’s the first time JFK has been to Berlin since the Wall went up. While most of the stewardesses are worried about keeping all of the writers and columnists happy, Maggie is trying to butter some of them up to get a seat in the Press area for the big speech. She strikes out once or twice, but a handsome, young writer named Mike from the Village Voice seems like he might be her best shot at an encounter with the President.
In Berlin, Kate makes her way to the bookstore and tries out her German a bit more on the street outside. While she’s standing on the sidewalk talking to herself, a car speeds up and a frantic, blonde, German woman yells for her to get in. It’s her contact, and she has the book, but the East German Secret Police are on to her! Realizing the car’s been marked, Kate and her contact flee back to her hotel. Neither of them know what to do next—they’re both just couriers. Kate calls her British contact, Mr. Anderson, and asks for his help. He not-so-politely tells her “no” and that the young woman isn’t her problem. But Kate knows if she doesn’t do something, her German counterpart will be caught and probably killed.
Just as Kate’s trying to come up with a plan, Laura knocks on her door. It’s time for the President’s speech! Knowing she can’t do anything for the German courier right now and that people will get suspicious if she doesn’t go, Kate leaves with the others. Maggie, Colette, Ted and the two Cameron sisters accompany Mike the reporter to the speech. The crowd is huge and it looks like they won’t get a good look at anything until an older man and his wife whisk them away to an apartment building overlooking the plaza. As they’re rushing up the stairs, Colette seems terrified. We see through her eyes flashes of German soldiers storming up the stairs. She was three-years-old when the Nazis invaded France, and this whole trip has been one big, painful reminder of a traumatic part of her life. Maggie, Kate, Ted and Laura watch the speech and can’t help but be moved by the President’s words. Colette is brought to tears as well, but for very different reasons.
Maggie missed her chance to meet the President at his speech, but she’s not giving up. There’s a party JFK is going to that night at the U.S. Mission and she’s determined to get in. Once again, she ropes in all of her fellow stewardesses to help. Kate, seeing an opportunity to get her German courier to a safe place, suggests that they all go in uniform. The ladies make it past the door, barely, when Dean vouches for them. He’s there to glad-hand some dignitaries for Pan Am. Kate tells her contact, now disguised as a stewardess herself, to go tell her story to George Manchester, a very connected reporter who hates the Communists and would be able to help her get asylum. All Kate can do is watch from across the room and hope it all works out. We all breathe a sigh of relief when it looks like it does, but Kate’s not feeling so good later when Mr. Anderson shows up at the party to tell her she has no idea what she’s done.
It turns out it’s Colette’s turn to get a little drunk this time, as she knocks back a few too many glasses of champagne. She can’t help but be bitter and embarrass Dean as he’s speaking to a German travel authority. Then she decides to sing the German national anthem for the party. At first no one realizes anything’s wrong, but as Colette sings she gets visibly more upset. She admits to Kate later that she meant to go to Germany to forgive, but she can’t. Her past still hurts too much.
Maggie’s mission to meet the President hits a dead-end again when Dean tells her that he left the party before she had even arrived. She’s despondent at the airport as she and Laura make their way to the Majestic, until they spot Air Force One. Maggie’s got one more chance! She “borrows” Ted’s stash of Cuban cigars, JFK’s favorite, and rushes for the plane. Secret Service stops her, but agree to hand the cigars over. She doesn’t get a handshake, but the President comes out and gives her a wave as a “thank you.” From the tears in her eyes, we can tell it’s enough.