Unforgotten: Airlines Of the Past (Part 1)

Nothing is a more sobering testament to the unpredictability of the airline business than the long list of carriers that are no longer with us. From Pan Am and Braniff to Ozark and Southern, here’s a look back at some of America’s most colorful and influential airlines.

By Patrick Smith, up now on The Points Guy website.

Click below to read.


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10 Responses to “Unforgotten: Airlines Of the Past (Part 1)”
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  1. John S. says:

    Ah, Hughes Airwest. My family and I would fly that carrier all over the west coast. My grandpa owned a shipping company and one of his biggest customers was HA. McDonald’s would have a seasonal banana shake and the Happy Meal would come with a small foam glider, shaped like a banana, with the Hughes livery on it. Good times.

  2. Royal Hinshaw says:

    I grew up and still live in the Winston-Salem, NC area where Piedmont was a big deal. I was surprised to learn recently that the Piedmont Airlines name still exists. In what seems an odd branding strategy, USAir (now American Eagle), which bought Piedmont, rebranded another of their regional acquisitions, Henson Aviation out of Hagerstown, Maryland, with the Piedmont name and mostly operates in regions of the U.S. where I don’t think the Piedmont name was that well known.

    I learned this because one of their pilots was on a podcast I was listening to. He gave a brief history of the airline that left me thinking, “none of this is right” because he was actually the describing the history of Henson. I had to hit the internet later to sort it out.

    • Patrick says:

      The article talks about the name recycling thing. Maybe you didn’t read it all the way through? (There’s a segment in my book about it, too.)

      As for the podcast, that was just foolish on the pilot’s part. Then again, he may not even have known about the original Piedmont. You’d be surprised how ignorant many airline crew members are of the industry and its history, especially younger ones.

  3. Earl Boebert says:

    I took my first commercial airplane ride in 1961, Western from Oakland to LA, then BOAC over the pole to Heathrow. Between then and now I flew all but three or four of the airlines you listed.

    You omitted Mohawk, who opened a Minneapolis to Syracuse flight with two or three intermediate stops. They served wine and cheese baskets in an attempt to be classy. If you went all the way, the atmosphere was somewhat diminished by the cabin attendants taking your basket away on approach to one of the intermediate stops, tagging it with your seat number, and giving it back to after takeoff. I think that cabin service lasted just a couple of months.

    The other truly heroic cabin service was the Ozark breakfast flight from Minneapolis to St. Louis. Flew that a lot. Always packed. 55 minutes or a little less if the wind was out of the North. The attendants were on their feet the instant of liftoff, running down the aisles with one passing out plastic trays of mystery omelet/french toast plus mystery sausage and behind her the coffee lady, going as fast as they could.

    If you were a regular, as I was, you knew to inhale that if wanted anything to eat, because soon the two of them would be running down the aisle again, grabbing trays and throwing them into big garbage bags. They’d meet in the middle, run to their seats, toss the garbage bags in the john and sit down just before touchdown. Sometimes they wouldn’t make it and we’d land with them holding the garbage bag.

  4. Pedro says:

    It’s a shame, all the brands that had disapeared in the US (ethier by ending operations, or by being merged).

    -Piedmont, Allegheny, PSA, Mohawk: into US Air. And then, America West-US Airways merger, and finaly into AA (the latest previously took Reno Air, Air Cal, and TWA, including Ozark, taken previously by TWA).

    -Northwest (who took Republic) plus Western, into Delta.

    -People Express, the first Frontier Airlines, and New York-air, into Texas Air, and then into Continental, which now makes part of United.

    -Eastern, Braniff, Pan Am (plus National Airlines): broke.

    In Europe, for the moment, the brands are kept (British A., Iberia and Aer Lingus are still there, and not under an IAG, or a British A. common brand. The same for Air France and KLM, or for Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss and Brussels).

  5. dave kitterman says:

    I’m not sure where PanAmerican Grace (Panagra) fits into all of this. I flew on Panagra from Miami to Buenos Aires several times in the early 60’s. The flight, a DC-8, had stops in Caracas, Venezuela Lima,Peru and Santiago, Chile. For some reason, something to do with a certification dispute I think, the flight with Panagra once ended in Santiago and we were flown to Buenos Aires on a DC-7 over and through the Andes. It was either a LAN Chile or an Aereolinas Argentina DC-7. One of the most memorable and beautiful flights I ever experienced.

  6. Michael Dunst says:

    I’m not sure why you decided to omit Midwest Airlines. They never were very huge, true, but I think they deserve a paragraph or two due to their unique position in history. How many other airlines served dinners on china and had leather seats on 717’s all while being based in Milwaukee of all cities? Definitely not as important as Pan Am in aviation history, but I think still desrving of a mention.

  7. PSImpson says:

    Memories…I’ve lived outside Boston since 1965 and I remember most of those airlines, and have flown on a couple of the more obscure ones: Piedmont and Cape Air.

    When taxiing to the gate as a passenger I get a kick out of reading the registration numbers off the aircraft we pass. You can learn a lot from the alpha suffixes: NW is a former Northwest aircraft, for example. So those names live on, even if they’re not pained in big letters 🙂

    My contribution is Ansett. They were an Australian internal carrier and I flew them in 1962 when we moved to Australia for my dad’s job. I also still have the maroon vinyl QANTAS (“Australia’s Round-the-World Airline”) shoulder bags my brother and I pestered my mom to buy for us on that trip. Still in good shape 70 years later!

  8. Alan Dahl says:

    I miss having the articles and comments here on your web site, especially because I don’t want to log in from work using my social media account like The Points Guy requires just to make comments.

    • Patrick says:

      I hold the rights to reprint the Points Guy articles on my site after 30 days. You’ll notice the “Short Haul Surprise” story, which ran on Points Guy, now appears below. The “Airplane That Isn’t” will be next. So you may as well leave your comments here, because the full article will up eventually.