America West Airlines
airline=America West Airlines
logo=America West logo.png
America West Holdings
founded=February 1981cite book|last=Norwood|first=Tom|coauthors=Wegg, John|title=North American Airlines Handbook|publisher=Airways International|location=Sandpoint, ID|year=2002|edition=3rd|isbn=0-9653993-8-9|url=http://www.airwaysnews.com]
August 1, 1983
key_people=Doug Parker (
CEO), Derek Kerr ( CFO)
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport McCarran International Airport
lounge=Formerly America West Club now US Airways Club
alliance=None until merger, but now
website= http://americawest.com [defunct]
America West Airlines was one of the
United States' ten major airlines. The airline was based in Phoenix, Arizona, and is now a part of US Airways Group.
At the time of its integration into US Airways, the airline maintained two hubs, one at
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airportin Phoenix, Arizona, and at McCarran International Airportin Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the second largest low-cost airline in the US. America West provided service to approximately 100 destinations in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Service to Europewas provided through code sharing arrangements.
As of March 2005, America West operated a fleet of 140 aircraft with its only maintenance base in Phoenix.
May 19, 2005, America West Holdings Corporationannounced it would acquire the Arlington County, Virginiabased US Airways Group. The new entity is named US Airways Groupand is headquartered in America West's former corporate offices. US Airways Group corporate offices in Virginia were shut down, and most US Airways management were laid off. America West CEO Doug Parker became CEO of the merged companies, and his management team remains in control. The merger was completed on September 27, 2005, and America West now operates under the old US Airways brand, which was felt to be more appropriate to the combined airline's nationwide route network. A merger of the two airlines' FAA operating certificates occurred on September 25, 2007 (the USAirways Certificate survived,) ending the 24-year history of America West Airlines.
Beginning January 2006, all America West flights were branded as US Airways, along with most signage at airports and any other printed material, though many flights were described as "operated by America West." Apart from two heritage aircraft, the only America West branding present on aircraft are on some seat covers, bulkheads, and flight attendant uniforms.
The early years
One of the 1980s' greatest business success stories, the airline was established in February 1981 and started on
August 1, 1983using three leased Boeing 737aircraft flying out of their base in Phoenix, Arizonawith Ed Beauvaisas CEO. At the start, passengers could buy tickets on board the aircraft.
The airline quickly expanded, with 11 737s operating flights to 13 cities, developing a secondary hub in Las Vegas, Nevada by the end of 1983, and in 1984 grew to 21 aircraft and 23 cities.
America West was one of the first airlines to use extensive "cross-utilization", in which employees were trained in a variety of airline jobs, such as pilots trained in dispatch, and both baggage handlers and flight attendants being trained as gate agents. America West also started as a "full service" airline, in contrast with
Southwest Airlines, the discount air carrier competing in many of the same markets. America West also utilized an aggressive employee stock ownership program, in which new employees were required to invest 20% of their salary in company stock, providing a steady flow of cash as the company grew.
Portland International Airport]
In 1985, America West had grown to the point that no more gate space was available at
Sky Harbor International Airport. While the new Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor was approved in 1986, it became apparent that additional gates would be needed before Terminal 4 was completed, and a temporary concourse was added to the southwest corner of the Airport's Terminal 3, adding six gates (eventually a total of 11 gates by 1990) for the use of America West.
The airline's rapid growth continued in 1986, with the airline greatly expanding its fleet, primarily with
Boeing 757s purchased from Northwest Airlinesafter Northwest bought out Republic Airlines, as well as the acquisition of a number of De Havilland Canada Dash 8aircraft for local service from Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Also in 1986, the airline started running
red-eye flights from Las Vegas to increase aircraft utilization.
The rapid growth of America West resulted in large operating losses for the airline, and by 1986 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Originally slated to occupy the vast majority of the gates in the under-construction Terminal 4, America West had to reduce its commitment to the city of Phoenix to just 28 gates, with the growing Southwest Airlines agreeing to lease the remainder of Terminal 4. Despite revenue problems, America West continued its growth, with a rebuffed attempted buyout of
Eastern Air Lines"shuttle" division in 1988.
As 1989 opened the airline explored destinations beyond the United States, America West filed with Department of Transportation for a Phoenix to Sydney route, to connect with now defunct
Ansett Airlines. However the proposal was rejected and the Reagan Administrationawarded the route to another airline.
In 1989, the airline leased four
Boeing 747aircraft (formerly operated by KLM), offering service to Hawaii and Nagoya, Japan, as well as an expansion of service to many Mexican destinations.
In 1990, the airline moved into the new Terminal 4 and also took the delivery of several
Airbus A320aircraft that were destined for the now-defunct Braniff Airways. The A320s were sold to America West at a steep discount. Braniff had assumed the Airbus A320 order after purchasing the original order rights from Pan Am, another troubled carrier. The United States Department of Transportationclassified America West Airways a major airline.cite web |url=http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/America-West-Holdings-Corporation-Company-History.html |title=America West Holdings Corporation |accessdate=2008-08-23 |work= |publisher= |date= ]
Despite these developments, the airline continued to lose money. The operating expenses at the new Terminal 4 were much higher than previous expenses in Terminal 3's temporary concourse. The Nagoya, Japan route was essentially a bust (the planes were flying with almost no passengers), with extremely low ticket sales. Finally, concerns about stability in the Gulf States in the lead-up to the Persian Gulf War lead to increasing fuel costs. This combination forced America West to file for bankruptcy in June 1991.
America West operated in
bankruptcyfrom 1991 to 1994. As part of its restructuring, the employee stock became worthless, the Hawaii and Nagoya routes were scrapped (and the 747s sold), and the airline's fleet was heavily pared down to 87 aircraft. All of the Dash 8 aircraft were sold, and America West's service to local markets was contracted to Mesa Airlines, which began conducting operations as "America West Express."
The bankruptcy forced a number of changes on the management side as well. Founder and CEO Ed Beauvais was removed as CEO, but remained on the board of directors, while Mike Conway, who had been with the airline since its start, was appointed as the new CEO, although he in turn would leave the airline in 1994, replaced by A. Maurice Myers. America West's Flight Attendants also unionized in 1993, a move which ended the cross-utilization between customer service agents, flight attendants, and ground agents. Many maintenance and training functions that were previously operated by America West in-house were also outsourced during the bankruptcy.
Finally, in 1994 America West managed to secure a reorganization that allowed it to come out of bankruptcy, with a large portion of the airline owned by a partnership including
Mesa Airlinesand Continental Airlines, which resulted in code-sharing agreements with these airlines.
To help reinvigorate the airline as it emerged from bankruptcy, a number of consumer-visible changes occurred, including a new color scheme and logo (used until the merger with US Airways), new
livery, E-ticket, and online ticket purchasing (in 1996). The airline continued ordering Airbus A320aircraft, and gradually started retiring its older Boeing 737-200 aircraft.
In the 1990s, America West Airlines opened an east coast hub at
Port Columbus International Airportin Columbus, Ohio. Chautauqua Airlineswas used to provide commuter and regional flights. An "America West Club" was provided for the hub.
At the end of 2001, America West Airlines received a loan of $380 million from the
Air Transportation Stabilization Board. [ [http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/po890.htm Air Transportation Stabilization Board Conditionally Approves Application By America West] U.S. Treasury] As of April 2005, the remaining balance on the loan was $300 million. On October 19, 2005, the loan was repaid when the debt was refinanced with other lenders.
In February 2003, America West Airlines announced plans to close the Port Columbus International Airport hub. The closure was completed later that year reducing the number of scheduled flights from near 50 a day to only 4.
America West Airlines, in conjunction with [http://www.skymediabiz.com SkyMedia International] , pioneered advertising space inside the cabin of the aircraft as an additional revenue source to help bring costs down. The companies developed FAA approved tray-table advertising.
With the merger of the holding companies, described above, major changes happened at America West as the brand conversion began. Changes that occurred include:
October 5, 2005, the airport club changed names from the America West Club to the US Airways Club
*All new America West aircraft were delivered in the new
US Airwayslivery and older aircraft were being repainted retaining the America West interior.
*The gates and ticket counters for US Airways and America West were consolidated at airports where both airlines operate.
*America West used the
QIKcomputer reservation system which relies on SHARES, while US Airways used Sabre. The two systems were very different, which caused separate check-in areas for US Airways operated flights and America West operated flights. On March 4, 2007, all US Airways flights were transferred over to QIK.
America West Expresswas the name for commuter and regional flights operated by Mesa Airlinesfor America West Airlines. The America West Express fleet consisted of 43 aircraft. All flights are now branded as US Airways Express.
*America West aircraft and US Airways aircraft were no longer confined to operating out of their pre-merger hubs (i.e. certain flights from Philadelphia are operated by America West aircraft to destinations other than Phoenix and Las Vegas and vice versa). However, most America West flights still operated primarily out of Phoenix and Las Vegas.
September 25, 2007saw the merger of AWE and USA into one operating certificate. The call-signs are still separated with the west fleet continuing to use 'Cactus' while the east fleet continues to use 'USAir'.
*As of September 2008, USA and AWE is flying under one call sign, 'Cactus', and ICAO code 'AWE'.
All outstanding America West orders have been transferred to the merged entity, US Airways.
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