When Airlines Disappear: Whatever Happened to Your Favorite Carrier

Remember the airlines of yesteryear? Actually, in the past few years several airlines have been pulling a disappearing act by either shutting down due to financial reasons (Aloha, Skybus) or vanishing into another carrier via merger (Continental into United). This was the topic of my recent column for ABCNews.com and I’ve got more details here.

Allegheny Airlines

This started life as a humble mail carrier named All American Airways which later renamed itself US Air then US Airways and will soon be going back to one of its first names when US Airways disappears altogether as a result of its merger with American Airlines.

Note: Supposedly Allegheny changed its name to US Air to better reflect its move from a regional to national carrier but it also helped do away with Allegheny’s longtime nickname: Agony Airlines.

Northwest Orient

You probably knew this carrier as Northwest Orient, but the “orient” part was just something dreamed up by a marketing whiz, mainly because of all the trans-Pacific flights the airline made. It’s real name was simply Norwest Airlines or NWA until it too disappeared into a merger with Delta. You can look at all the old records of the airline at the Minnesota Historical Society website which includes a few letters from famed aviator Amelia Earhart who once did business with Northwest.

Pacific Southwest Airlines

This was once called the unofficial airline of California and generations of flyers up and down the West Coast remember the planes fondly because they all had big smiles painted on them – perfect for an airline that branded itself the world’s “friendliest.” Ultimately it decided to merge into US Airways and that last flight of a smiling plane was in 1988.

Pan American Airways

This iconic airline spanned the globe and even today, is remembered as perhaps the airline of the twentieth century. But the airline was ultimately shunted aside due to economic factors, changing passenger demand, deregulation and even terrorism (the 747 that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 was a Pan Am plane). It retains its singular status among airline memorabilia enthusiasts, including collector Anthony Toth who has assembled much of a Pan Am 747 aircraft in a warehouse, complete with lovingly restored vintage cabin.

More from Rick Seaney:

Ghosts of Airlines Past


Published: February 17, 2014