There was a time when the huge airlines of today did not dominate the aviation industry. Just so you know, there are more airline companies in the country apart from Delta, American Airlines, and United. In the past, there had been a number of smaller, regional businesses that flew the same skies as well. Sadly, they ended up disappearing after the fuel price increase, the deregulation of the industry, the difficult competition, and the 9/11 tragedy. Take a look at the airline companies that have become obsolete over the years. We bet that you have either forgotten them or did not know that they existed in the first place.
Pan American World Airlines
This is one of the most famous airlines that disappeared. In operation from 1927 to 1991, Pan AM enjoyed a longer time in the business than others on the list. According to Yahoo Finance, it once flew the Beatles to New York! The company had huge ambitions and even wanted to send people to the moon at one point. Sadly, it decided to shut down after shuttling people around the world for 64 years. The LA Times reported that the company announced this sad turn of events a day after it was meant to come out of bankruptcy a year after it filed for bankruptcy protection. Needless to say, it at least had a great run.
All right, the truth is that this airline is not actually dead. Despite this, it probably would have gone under had it not merged with the parent company of United Airlines in 2012. According to Yahoo Finance, the merger with the UAL Corporation happened for $ billion. After this, the companies unveiled the new logo that was going to be used for the operations. Despite this, Continental Airlines staff members wear the Continental uniform on the job. According to the New York Times, the deal was going to make a strong presence in domestic markets and improve the international reach of both companies. Fun fact: the slogan of Continental Airlines had been “Work Hard, Fly Right”
Who would have thought that this cruise line company once tried its luck in air travel as well? Unfortunately for it, it did not see the same level of success that it saw with its cruises. Yahoo Finance says that the airline had a fleet of 25 planes that would travel from the Eastern Seaboard to Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. After some time, Pan American Airlines bought it. Once the parent company starter to deal with financial issues, Boston-Maine Airways took over the operations. In 2008, it ended up shutting down at the start of the American recession. In the end, Carnival decided to let go of its airplanes and simply stick to cruises.
This airline got its start under the name All American Aviation back in 1937. It underwent a couple of changes before it became known as the U.S. Airways. Yahoo said that U.S. Airways absorbed the airline company in 2015. It is best known for the infamous Flight 1549, also known as “the miracle on the Hudson.” A pilot by the name of Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger managed to land the flight to safety on the Hudson River in New York when the engine was knocked out by a flock of geese. What made it so newsworthy was the fact that he ended up saving every single person aboard the plane! Whew.
These days, Spirit or Frontier Airlines would be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to low-cost airlines. Yahoo says that PeoplExpress had been their forerunner of sorts. It did well for a couple of years and even started offering transatlantic flights to the United Kingdom in 1983. Sadly, its downfall came about thanks to things outside of its control. There are several things that led to its eventual demise. The list includes its cheap airfare and a widening network. In 1987, PeoplExpress was purchased by Continental Airlines. In turn, UAL Corporation went on to buy the parent company in 2012.
Trans World Airlines
A lot of people know Trans World Airlines because it was owned by Howard Hughes, who was famously portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in a biopic called The Aviator. Trans World Airlines, also known as TWA, came about as a merger between Transcontinental Air Transport and Western Air in 1930. The government mandated this deal. Hughes might not have founded the airline company, but he did take control of it in 1939. According to Yahoo, it dominated the industry for years but eventually came under the management of a second primary shareholder called Carl Ichan. He has been blamed for its downfall in the end. In 2001, it went defunct after it was purchased by American Airlines.
This airline company did not stay in the game for a long period of time. ValuJet had a network and traveled 28 routes in the United States during its heyday. Sadly, things went downhill when Flight 529 crashed in 1996. There were 110 people aboard the plane bound for Atlanta, and they all died in the accident. Miami Herald reported that it had not even flown 100 miles away from Miami International when it started to go down. It was in business from 1992 to 1997, which is shorter than the operation time of the others on the list. ValuJet eventually merged with Airways to form AirTrans Airways.
According to CheatSheet, Aloha Airlines met its demise thanks to competition and rising fuel prices. This had been the second largest airline company in Hawaii until it shut down. When ABC News spoke to an aviation historian called Peter Forman, he said that it was “responding to the prejudices of the time.” The expert said that founder Rudy Tongg was of the belief that there had been discrimination in the industry. Sadly, customers lost faith in it after the Flight 243 fiasco. Part of the roof broke down, flew off, and took a flight attendant with it. Despite this, it was a good thing that pilot was able to land safely.
Like the name indicates, this carrier serviced the American heartland. We are talking about states such as Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. According to Yahoo, this focus did not help it succeed as this part of the country is sparsely populated. This means that there were fewer passengers who used the services of the airline. With its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, Frontier Airlines eventually bought Central Airlines. For the sake of clarity, this is not the same Frontier Airlines currently in operation. The takeaway from this is that you should always diversify the client base to make as much profit as you can.
This company was also the result of a merger. In 1950, it was born when Challenger Airlines, Arizona Airways, and Monarch Airlines came together to make a single company. The HQ of Frontier Airlines was located in Denver, Colorado, but it had hubs in St. Louis, Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Kansas City as well. According to USA Today, it failed to outdo the competition. It was a good thing that it got a second life that continues to fly the skies to this day. Frontier Airlines that we are familiar with started in 1994. In 2009, the second iteration of the company was purchased by Republic Airlines.
When it was starting out, Family Airlines promised budget flights. Headquartered in Las Vegas, fares had been as low as $49 from Dallas to Los Angeles. It also offered $89 flights between Los Angeles and Honolulu. This airline company had its eyes on families as its main target audience. Sadly, the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that it was not going to process the application of the company, which it needed to start operations. FOX30 reported that it tried once more under the name Avatar Airlines. We are sorry to report that this failed to improve things. Apparently, the government had reservations that had something to do with Barry Michaels, the founder of the company. It never really took off.
According to Yahoo, Eastern Airlines got help from the government when it was starting out. The government split up mail subsidies among a number of airlines. It had been in operation from 1926 to 1991. Sadly, the airline company kicked the bucket once the federal government curtailed aviation regulations. Airline Pan Am stopped operations in the same year. The New York Times claimed that, at the time, Eastern Airlines had already been struggling for two years to make its way out of bankruptcy. Five thousand of its 18,000 employees had been expecting to be laid off until it found a buyer that came to their rescue.
MGM Grand Air
What we have learned so far is that a company might be successful in one venture, but this does not guarantee success in the aviation business. This resort and entertainment company operated its own airline company. According to UNLV Center for Gaming Research, this remained true until it was purchased by Champion Air. Sadly, the parent company dissolved in the early 2000s as well. It was a charter air service, which probably means that MGM Resorts did not really need it to boost profits. Despite its losses with this venture, it continued to do well in the hospitality industry. It was probably a good thing that it ended up cutting its losses since MGM Grand Air had been causing it problems.
Braniff International Airways
When it was in operation, Braniff International Airways had its HQ in Texas. It covered the Midwest, the South, and Latin America. Yahoo reports that there had been a couple of factors that led to its demise. According to the publication, it was a combination of the Airline Deregulation Act, the messy oil market, and the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization strike fallout. Did you know that Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame named the production company after the carrier? If you watch the end of the earlier episodes, you will see that they used five seconds of one Braniff commercial for the production logo. Things only changed when it was renamed to Parker-Stone Productions.
Mid Pacific Air
Even though it is a Hawaiian carrier like Aloha Airlines, Mid Pacific Air did not enjoy as much success in the industry. According to one of its brochures, it claimed to offer “the lowest inter-island fares of the three major inter-island carriers.” It sounds similar to what other airlines had been saying in those days and even up until now. Aside from that, the brochure read, “Low fares are only a part of what has made Mid Pacific Air a phenomenal success in an era of failing airlines.” Sadly, this did not seem to be enough to keep it afloat. In the end, the company joined the list of airlines that went downhill during the ‘90s.
Kitty Hawk International
The biography section of the Kalitta Air website explains that American International Airways and Kitty Hawk Inc. merged in 1997. Sadly, the resulting company ceased its operations in 2000 and applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Connie Kalitta bought the Aircraft Certificate, and the airline got its FAA and DOT authority in November 2000. Thanks to his efforts, Kitty Hawk International continues to fly as a cargo airline called Kalitta Air. It is based in Ypsilanti, Michigan and follows both domestic and international routes with the use of Boeing freighters. According to Kalitta, the business continues to expand at a quick rate. We just wish that Kitty Hawk experienced the same level of success that it did.
As the name suggests, Midwest Express operated out of Kansas City and Milwaukee when it was still around. According to Yahoo, the network expanded some more over the years as it continued to add more routes and destinations. The airline company changed after a couple of mergers when the 2000s rolled in. It eventually morphed into Frontier. As you can see, mergers are actually super common in this industry. The Chicago Tribune has reported that the company might make a comeback soon. It learned from a report filed by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that unnamed investors poured $750,000 into its revival. We can’t help but wonder if this is going to come to fruition!
The bright colors on these planes had been perfect because it reminded us of California sunshine. When it was in business, Air California had its HQ at John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Founded by two local businessmen called Bill Perrera and William E. Myers, it only took passengers to 13 destinations. Just like other small airlines on the list, it eventually merged with a larger name in the industry. In 1987, it entered a merger with American Airlines. Yahoo said that small regional airlines helped the big airline carriers that we now have and use. This is how Delta, United, and American Airlines came to be.
Did you know that Hooters actually had its own airline from 2003 to 2006? Robert Brooks, the owner of the restaurant chain, acquired Pace Airlines in 2002. Hooters Air operated under this carrier and took passengers to various places across the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. Business Insider said that the company closed after three years since it lost $40 million and had a hard time competing in the industry. Despite this, it did help boost the economy of Myrtle Beach, where the HQ was located.
During its first two decades in the industry, Mohawk enjoyed a steady pace of expansion outside the mid-Atlantic. It was even among the top 13 American airlines once it added new routes back in the ‘60s. Sadly, its luck did not go on forever. In the ‘60s, it suffered from two major strikes, one of which went on for 154 days. Of course, the airline company got a lot of bad press for this. In fact, you could say that this played a huge factor in its downfall. It eventually folded and merged into Allegheny Airlines, which later became known as U.S. Airways.
This is probably the oldest carrier on this list. In 1926, Northwest Airlines got its start as an airmail carrier. The company only added passenger airlines to its services a couple of years after that. Unlike the other entries on the list, it did not suffer from the regulation act. In fact, it went on to embark on Asian routes as well. Sadly, all good things must come to an end. According to CheatSheet, its decline can be attributed to 9/11 since it had to reduce the number of flights by 20 percent. Hurricane Katrina, on the other hand, brought the price of fuel up. In 2010, it was absorbed by Delta.
This airline company started out under the name Atlantic Coast Airlines. In those days, it had been a budget airline. The business model found it hard to gain a foothold in the industry since it tried to draw in customers with amazing deals. Even though it was supposed to attract clients, it did not work out like that. In fact, it only led to its downfall. In 2006, ABC News reported that there was nothing surprising about its failure to keep up with its competitors. The report said, “the failure further underscored the old but true adage that to make a million dollars in the airline business, you simply start with a billion.”
Here is another older airline on our list. Can you believe that this carrier started its operations in 1928? As you might have guessed from its name, Mid-Continent Airlines was based out of the central United States. It flew important routes around the region and eventually joined a merger with Braniff Airways, which we have already mentioned earlier in this gallery. Around the time that this happened, it had its headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. According to a Braniff International historical website, Mid-Continent Airlines operated a fleet of four Convair 240s and 23 Douglas DC-3s over 6,241 miles. In the ‘50s, the routes went from Minnesota to Louisiana to Texas.
Flying Tiger Line
This air cargo carrier offered services across the globe. The New York Times reported that Flying Tiger Line was founded by a group of pilots who served on the Flying Tiger fighter squadron in 1945. During the Second World War, this crew was formed to keep the Burma Road to China out of Japanese hands. Tiger International Inc., which is the parent company of Flying Tiger Line, went through a couple of losses over the years. During his time as its chairman, Stephen M. Wolf was able to make a lot of profit, but he ultimately left the company. In the late ‘80s, Federal Express bought Tiger for $880 million.
Formerly based in Minnesota, Champion Air let the world know that it was going to cease operations in 2008. Here is part of the statement released by Lee Steele, its CEO: “Our business model is no longer viable in a world of $110 oil, a struggling economy and rapidly changing demand for services.” Star Tribune reports that the airline company got its start as MGM Grand Air in 1993. Dick Page managed to acquire the operating certificate from MGM Grand Air and then founded Champion with it. In 1997, new owners took over the company but later sold its charter service to a couple of companies six years later.
We are referring to the airline and not the action-adventure flick with the same name. However, they do bear some similarities in the sense that they both flopped. Owned by the government, the U.S. Treasury made some profit when it was eventually sold. It is hard to find a lot of verifiable information about this particular airline, but we do know a couple of things about it. For one thing, it had been operated by CIA personnel. There are also online accounts that claim that it was nothing more than a dummy corporation used for CIA operations in Southeast Asia. This makes sense since the planes often served alongside intelligence agents and military personnel in the area when it was in business.
Chalk’s International Airlines
According to the Los Angeles Times, A.B. Chalk founded this airline company in Miami. At first, he was offering flying lessons, trips to a Bahamian island called Bimini, and air tours of the city. When it went through an expansion, he started to take famous passengers such as Errol Flynn and Howard Hughes out for a spin. When he passed away at 88 years, the company was passed down to different owners. In the end, United Capital Corp. purchased it. At the very least, the company enjoyed a long run of 76 years. This is quite a feat since many of the other airlines here only enjoyed a couple of years in the industry.
Here is another airline using the same name as another airline. However, the Midway Airlines that we are talking about had its HQ in North Carolina. It got its start through Jet Express with a route from Chicago to New York City in 1993. The company was based in North Carolina thanks to limited gate space and competition. Sadly, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on August 13, 2001. The following year, it decided to cease operations altogether. Government documents revealed that it applied for Chapter 7 in 2003 as well. Sadly, court documents have revealed that it failed to reorganize and rehabilitate the business.
Paradise Island Airlines
We have already talked about the adventures of a resort company in the aviation industry. Aside from MGM Grand Air, Merv Griffin Enterprises’ Resorts International decided to give it a go with Paradise Island Airlines. Chalk’s used to take passengers to Paradise Island but was limited to daytime flights. In an effort to increase traffic, the resort started a whole new airline. Sadly, Paradise Island Airlines went downhill after only one year because of ownership complications. A 1989 Sun Sentinel article reported that it was operated by Chalk’s. At the time, Paradise Island Airlines had been slated to increase the number of tourists going to Paradise Island threefold.
In 1936, this airline company got its start under the name Pennsylvania Central Airlines. Sadly, its fate was to merge with United Airlines in 1961. In the old days, it serviced routes in the eastern, midwestern, southern, and southeastern United States. It ended up changing its name to Capital Airlines in 1948. This was accompanied by a new logo and new colors as well. In the ‘50s, it had been fifth biggest domestic carrier in the country. The only ones ahead of it had been TWA, American, Eastern, and United. It started to struggle financially towards the end of the ‘50s, at which point it announced that it was merging with United Airlines. Former employees honored it by starting the Capital Airlines Association.
Evergreen International Aviation, Inc.
Is there any other airline that has a non-profit aviation museum? In 2000, Evergreen launched one such museum near its HQ in Oregon. It showed a variety of things that would make your jaws drug. For one, the “Spruce Goose” had been on display. It was an unsuccessful cargo airplane that was made by Howard Hughes. Source Watch later revealed that the former museum director sued Evergreen International Aviation because it claimed that it stole $600K from the museum. That was not the last sketchy rumor about the company either. It remains unclear if its planes were ever used for amazing rendition. The airline company had remained active from 1975 until 2013.
Let us get this out of the way – this is not the airline operating out of South Africa! The American Comair had been in business from 1977 until 2012. It had hubs in Cincinnati, New York City, and Orlando. Even though the company was a Delta Airlines subsidiary, the parent company did not seem all that worried about the way it turned out. There is a reason for its lack of concern when Comair folded in 2012. The truth is that this airline company only made up one percent of the network capacity of Delta. “There will be no disruption to customers and no significant adjustments to Delta’s flight schedule or locations served,” the parent company promised through its statement.
It is pretty sad to hear that Direct Air had only been in the industry for five years before it crashed. This charter airline served small cities that big airlines do not usually serve in the East, South, and Midwest, according to Associated Press. Could it be that there was not enough business there to keep it going? It canceled its services all of a sudden in 2012. Stranded customers at the time had been concerned for a good reason. Unlike regularly scheduled airlines, consumer protection laws do not cover public charter airlines! At any rate, Direct Air was only in the game from 2007 to 2012.
As a small airline company in the Midwest, Air Midwest had not exactly been primed for success. To be fair, it wouldn’t be on the list otherwise. This airline company was a Mesa Air Group subsidiary with its HQ in Wichita. It ran feeder flights for Braniff, Ozark, and other airlines. Sadly, it ran into a fair amount of problems. For one thing, it inherited the fleet from Scheduled Skyways after a merger and had to fix up those jets. Aside from that, Air Midwest had no choice but to sell the Nashville hub when it was starting to struggle. It was in operation from 1967 until 2008, so it clearly had a pretty good run despite this.
With its headquarters in Largo, Florida, this airline carrier ran a frequent-flyer program known as “Smile Miles.” Sadly, Southeast Airlines needed much more than cuteness if it wanted to survive in the aviation industry of the United States. In an effort to turn the tide, The Simple Life featured it in one episode of the show. We are sure that fans of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton still recall the reality show! They go on various adventures faking dumb blonde personas and laughing all the way to the bank. Unfortunately, this exposure did not help Southeast improve business. It eventually ceased operations in 2004. If Paris Hilton could not help you, we doubt that anyone on the planet could.