The Legacy Carriers - Part One - August 07, 2009

The Deregulation Act of 1978 – Part Four – July 24,2009
July 24, 2009
The Legacy Carriers – Part Two – August 14, 2009
August 14, 2009
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The Legacy Carriers – Part One – August 07, 2009

I am beginning a new series on the Legacy Carriers. By definition, a legacy carrier was an airline that was operating in 1978 when Airline Deregulation was codified. The number of carriers that have disappeared into the sunset since then is amazing. Some were dissolved, and some were absorbed by other carriers, but the fact that they are gone does not mean they are forgotten. As always, I would like all aviators to connect with their roots and one of the ways they can do that is by using the “Third Dimension Blog” as a resource.

Quote of the Week

“By day, or on a cloudless night, a pilot may drink the wine of the gods, but it has an earthly taste; he’s a god of the earth, like one of the Grecian deities who lives on worldly mountains and descended for intercourse with men. But at night, over a stratus layer, all sense of the planet may disappear. You know that down below, beneath that heavenly blanket is the earth, factual and hard. But it’s an intellectual knowledge; it’s a knowledge tucked away in the mind; not a feeling that penetrates the body. And if at times you renounce experience and mind’s heavy logic, it seems that the world has rushed along on its orbit, leaving you alone flying above a forgotten cloud bank, somewhere in the solitude of interstellar space.”— Charles A. Lindbergh ”The Spirit of St. Louis” 1953

The Legacy Carriers

Mergers and failures are difficult to keep up with, but there are some significant changes that took place in the 1980s and the decades after that can provide us with some perspective of the state of the industry. Do you remember which airlines were around in 1978 and which ones are no longer in existence? If the answer is no, here’s a list of who is not around:

  • Aloha Airlines failed in 2008
  • Air Cal was absorbed by American in 1987
  • Braniff failed in 1982 and Braniff II failed in 1989
  • Continental is still with us but the current Continental is a remake of the original Continental that was bought out by TI/Frank Lorenzo
  • Eastern failed in 1990
  • Frontier was absorbed by Continental in 1985
  • National was absorbed by Pan AM in 1980
  • Northwest was absorbed by Delta in 2008/2009
  • Ozark was absorbed by TWA in 1986
  • Pacific Southwest was absorbed by US Air in 1988-
  • Pan Am failed in 1990
  • Piedmont was absorbed by US Air in 1989
  • Republic was absorbed by Northwest in 1980
  • TWA was absorbed by American in 2001
  • Western was absorbed by Delta in 1987

These facts are very telling on the success of deregulation, but there are a number of experts who will argue that this is normal for any industry whether it is airlines or typewriters. However, the important thing to note here is that other industries were not regulated by the CAB.

Airline failures and mergers (what I referred to as absorptions above) occurred for some very simple economic reasons. First, and the most important, was to grow the airline and increase the route structure. The second reason was to control the minor to major markets to offset or minimize loss in the major to major markets where there was stiff competition. The third was only the strong survive.

Next week we will continue our series on the “Legacy Carriers” and look specifically at the Braniff and Eastern failures. So, until then take some time to look back, connect with your past and remember as an aviator you are a “Gatekeeper of the Third Dimension.”

Protect your profession, your future and the future of your fellow aviators.


Robert Novell

August 7, 2009