Burt Lancaster, who headlined the film above the title with Dean Martin, made a great deal of money from the film, which was a huge hit. Lancaster's contract gave him a 10% profit participation once the movie hit $50 million, and the film grossed $45.3 million in North America alone. Despite the financial windfall, Lancaster said that the movie was "the worst piece of junk ever made."
The real star of the show, the Boeing 707 (a 707-348C, serial no. 19351 [503rd 707 off the production line], originally registered N324F), was leased to MCA/Universal Pictures from Flying Tiger Airlines (now merged with FedEx) for the filming of the exterior shots. After filming was completed, the aircraft returned to Flying Tiger and was later sold, going through various owners before meeting a tragic end--it crashed while on landing approach on March 21, 1989, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Trans Global Airlines was the name of the fictional airline for the film. For many years it was not unusual to see props from the movie (with the fictional TGA logo) in other Universal films where airliner interior scenes were shot.
The field and terminal scenes were filmed entirely at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport due to the abundance of snowfall during the winter months there, although at first the film's producers were forced to use bleached sawdust as a supplement, to make up for the lack of falling snow, until a snowstorm hit the Twin Cities area during the production of the film.
Patty Poulsen, who played Joan, one of the stewardesses aboard the "Golden Argosy", was an actual stewardess for American Airlines. She was the winner of a stewardess beauty contest in which one of the prizes was a role in this film. She was also used heavily in American Airlines advertising of its new uniforms during the mid to late 1960s, photos that have, more recently, appeared in several different coffee table books celebrating the history of the airline hostess.
The final score in the prolific 40-year career of a Hollywood pioneer, Alfred Newman's music for this movie garnered posthumous Oscar and Golden Globe nominations - plus a Grammy nomination for the soundtrack release on Decca Records.
During the scene where Mel Bakersfeld and Commissioner Ackerman are arguing over closing down the airport, there is a model in the office of the proposed Super Sonic Transport (SST) to be built by Boeing before funding for it was cut.
Albert Reed, who played Lt. Ned Ordway, in charge of security, was a member of the Airport Security Division at Los Angeles International Airport. He served from 1959-83, retiring as Chief of Security. The Airport Security Division was later re-structured with upgraded training and, in 1984, became the Los Angeles Airport Police.
Edith Head designed a line of "Airport"-inspired clothing for the Hystron Fiber Co., utilizing its Trivera polyester fabric. The line was called the "Airport Look" collection and was launched with a fashion show in January 1970 for the New York Couture Business Council's press week. The line was not a success and was quietly withdrawn.
Guerrero, Van Heflin's name in this film, was also the name of the Mexican town in which Heflin's character, US Army trooper John Chawk, earned a Medal of Honor for his bravery in a battle with Mexican bandits that took place there.
Although it looks almost modern, the computer terminal in use by the reservation agents is the IBM 2260 Display Station, one of the first interactive computer terminals, introduced in 1964. Interactive computing over dedicated networks found one of its earliest applications in the airline ticketing and reservation system.
Albert Reed, who played Lieutenant Ned Ordway, in charge of security, was a member of the Airport Security Division at Los Angeles International Airport. He served from 1959 to 1983, retiring as "Chief of Security." The Airport Security Division was later re-structured with upgraded training, becoming, in 1984, the Los Angeles Airport Police.
The airplane model used for the miniature shots in this movie was also used in Emergency!: The Girl on the Balance Beam (1976). It was used when the paramedics rescue an actress in a harness for a flying scene. She is in front of a night sky backdrop and the airplane model on wires.
Soon to be Mrs. Cunningham on the TV series "Happy Days", the actress has an uncredited bit part as one of the passengers on the Rome flight. She is seated in a left aisle seat three rows in front of Ada Quonsett and D. O. Guerrero, and wears a green dress.