United Part Three: United Airlines during World War II - January 21, 2011

United Part Two: The Ads Tell a Story – January 14, 2011
January 14, 2011
United Part Four: The Ads Tell a Story – January 28, 2011
January 28, 2011
Show all

United Part Three: United Airlines during World War II – January 21, 2011

Part Three

United Airlines during World War II – January 21, 2011

By 1940, United Airlines became the first airline to provide cargo flights. It had also recently opened the first U.S. flight kitchen to provide in-flight meal service, and it soon became known as the airline that offered a new level of customer service.

United Airlines Route Map in 1940


During World War II, many United-trained ground crew members and employees were flying bomber planes and supporting various mail efforts. The war prompted many new technology developments for the aviation industry, and United was able to adopt many of these technologies shortly after the war. Most of the airlines, including United Airlines, were well-prepared for the war effort and mobilized many aircraft, supplies, and equipment relatively quickly.

The Air Transport Command (ATC) formed in 1942 to coordinate the transport of aircraft, equipment, and cargo across the United States, and to deploy cargo, aircraft and personnel around the world. Demand for consumer air travel dissipated during World War II and United, like many other airlines, was fully focused on the war effort.

Most aircraft flew more than 80 percent full during the war and the military requisitioned approximately 200 of the United States’ 360 airliners, including United’s aircraft.

World War II did revive the airline industry in many ways. Major airlines, including United, had moved away from carrying postal mail and developed new networks that would carry casual flyers, as well as military personnel and cargo. Airlines in the Allied countries were free of lease contracts to the military and saw an explosive increase in demand for civil air transport shortly after World War II was over. Many airlines invested in new aircraft including the Douglas DC-6 and the Lockheed Constellation. These planes were pressurized and were designed like the American bomber planes used during the war.

This transition led United and other airlines into a period known as the Jet Age— Next week we will continue our series but until then please take care and fly safe


Robert Novell
January 21, 2011