The Story of US Airways

Two years after saving bankrupted American Airlines in 2013 by way of a merge, US Airways ceased to be. Learn the story of US Airways from boom to bust (and back again).

US Airways 737 landing
US Airways and AMR planned in 2013 to form the “biggest airline in the world”. Photo: Anthony92931 [CC BY-SA 3.0] Wikimedia Commons
Founded in 1937, All American Aviation Inc. was a local airmail service for the Ohio River Valley District. After two years of set-up, founder Dr. Lytle Schooler Adams and Richard du Pont organized the delivery of mail to customers using a Stinson Reliant prop plane.

In 1949, All American Airways, as it became known, received a federal go-ahead to fly passengers to various destinations in the northeast of the country. All American first used a Douglas DC-3 on its short-haul routes followed by the more modern turboprop Convair 580.

The carrier changed its name again in 1953 to Allegheny Airlines and chose Pittsburgh as its hub.

Allegheny Airlines BAC1-11
Allegheny Airlines used Pittsburgh as its hub. Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi [CC BY-SA 3.0] Wikimedia Commons
Allegheny’s first jet airliner was the DC-9 which it began operating in 1966. As a result, the airline’s network soon took in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia. By 1973 Allegheny, which had absorbed several other regional airlines on the way, was one of the largest carriers in the region.

With a burgeoning network of routes throughout the eastern United States Allegheny changed its name to USAir in 1979 to reflect its growth. USAir and Southwest Airlines were the first carriers to order the brand new 737-300 in 1981.

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Expansion

In the early ’90s USAir began flights to Europe taking in cities such as London and Frankfurt. A British Airways investment in USAir at the time spelled one of the first transatlantic airline alliances and code shares.

US Airways A320-231 on taxiway
BA investment in the airline in the 1990s the first of its kind. Photo: David Mueller [CC BY-SA 2.5] Wikimedia Commons
Together with American Airlines and United, USAir benefited from a surge in profits in the ’90s caused by low fuel prices and a buoyant marketplace. The carrier invested in a new terminal at its hub in Pittsburgh, and in 1997 changed its name again to US Airways.

For American, trouble was brewing at the turn of the millennium. The airline saw a dramatic economic downturn following the September 11th terrorist attacks. In 2011, after the 2008 financial crash and several run-ins with the FAA, American Airlines’ parent company AMR filed for bankruptcy.

In tandem with AA’s woes, by the mid-2000s US Airways had also filed for bankruptcy. As a result of its own downturn, US Airways merged with America West Holdings in 2005. The merged airline retained the US Airways name to steady its worldwide reputation.

Merger

In February 2013, the now nearly-bankrupted American Airlines and a rejuvenated US Airways announced plans to merge. The parent companies of both airlines merged successfully in December of the same year.

American Airlines tail fin
FAA’s single certification of American and US Airways merge led to end of US Airways. Photo: American Airlines

Two years after the merger, the FAA granted a single operating certificate for both carriers. Its doing so led to the termination of US Airways as a carrier in its own right. The brand continued to exist until October of 2015, but is now no more.

In the same month, the final US Airways flight took off from San Francisco bound for Philadelphia via Phoenix and Charlotte. It operated as Flight 1939, in commemoration of the year of the birth of All American Aviation Inc.

1 comment
  1. I remember the bad, old days of the 70s & 80s when Allegheny/USAir had a virtual lock on flights from the Great Lakes states to the east coast. Lousy planes, even worse service… And the old PIT terminal had all of the charm of a bus station bathroom.

    No matter what they called themselves, they’ll always be Agony Airlines to me and many others. Good frigging riddance.

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