American Airlines - The Post-War Era 1946 to 1978 - Part 5 - November 5, 2010

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American Airlines – The Post-War Era 1946 to 1978 – Part 5 – November 5, 2010


American Airlines – The Post-War Era 1946 to 1978

Part Five

This week we continue our series on American and focus on post World War II. After World War II, many American Airlines aircraft were put into commercial service and by 1949, the airline had become the only airline in the United States with a fleet of pressurized passenger planes. However, the jet age was on the way and US airlines were about to experience an explosion in technology.

1944 marked the beginning of what is called the “Jet Age”, a time when American aviators were flying bigger, more efficient piston-powered planes. Many aircraft manufacturers were simply not interested in building passenger jets because fuel for these planes was very expensive. The traveling public was also just fine flying in propeller airplanes, but the head of Pan Am found a way to introduce big jets into the commercial space and actually make a big profit. Juan Trippe of Pan Am found a way to create a thriving jet building business, with the help of Boeing and Douglas. The Boeing 707 was launched, and he managed to fill his fleet at 90% capacity.

The airline industry grew once again, and many airlines started focusing on the customer service end of the business. Stewardesses took on a glamorous role during the 40’s and 50s, and many airlines – including American – advertised in-flight benefits such as meal service and comfortable seats.

From 1945 to 1950, American began operating American Overseas Airlines (AOA), a trans-Atlantic division that would serve several European countries. This was a merger between the international division of American and American Export Airlines. AOA would later merge with Pan American World Airways.

By 1959, American Airlines became the first domestic airline to offer domestic jet service and purchased, rather than leased its planes.

During the 1960s and 70s, American introduced and implemented SABRE (Semi-Automated Business Research Environment) and later extended the network from Canada to Mexico. This became the second largest real-time data processing system, with the U.S. government’s SAGE system being the first.

During the Jet Age, American added several high-powered jets to its fleet, including the Boeing 727 and the Boeing 747.

The Deregulation Act of 1978 removed many of the controls the U.S. government had through the regulations set forth by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). The free competition this act created helped speed up the growth and expansion of American Airlines and some of the other major passenger-carrying airlines of the time. President Jimmy Carter pushed for the deregulation and prompted major carriers, including American, to offer lower fares and more competitive pricing. This is one of the reasons why American Airlines began offering its “Super Saver” tickets.

Even though the major airlines feared the increased competition and labor unions were concerned about their nonunion employees, there was enough public support for the act to pass.

Many major airlines fell apart after the passage of the Deregulation Act of 1978. American Airlines was not one of them, and continued to maintain its position as one of the strongest commercial airlines in the aviation industry. It managed to acquire all of Eastern Airline’s major routes into Latin America, and by the 1990s, became one of the strongest players in the East Coast Market.


American Airlines ”Flagship Vermont”

Next week we continue our series on American Airlines but I will again be presenting the next part of their story in advertisements of the time. I hope you will enjoy this look back in time and as always take a few minutes each day to reflect back on your roots as an aviator and help me identify what we as “Gatekeepers of the Third Dimension” need to do to protect our profession.


Robert Novell,

November 05, 2010