US Airways, known as USAir
until 1997, is one of the six largest airline
s in the United States
, focused primarily around the eastern seaboard
with hubs in Pittsburgh
, and Charlotte
. The history of the airline is difficult to track: today's US Airways is the result of the merger
s of Piedmont Airlines
, Lake Central Airlines
, Mohawk Airlines
, Empire Airlines
, the Trump Shuttle
, and Pacific Southwest Airlines
) between 1968 and 1992, all falling into an umbrella that started with Pennsylvania
carrier Allegheny Airlines
. The name "USAir" was first used in 1979.
Unfortunately, the airline, like the industry in general, has been a victim of gross mismanagement and plain bad luck over the past decade or so. In 1993, British Airways made a major investment in USAir to keep the airline afloat, forcing USAir to give up its authority to serve London. Then, around the time it became US Airways, USAir sued BA to take back its ownership, only to fall into a series of labor disputes with mechanics and flight attendants that led to an attempted United Airlines takeover in 2000.
At the same time as its failed relationship with The World's Favourite Airline was taking place, USAir was racking up one of the worst safety records in the history of civil aviation. In the space of just four years, the airline suffered four fatal crashes:
- February 1, 1991: USAir flight 1493, a Boeing 737, collided with Skywest flight 5569 on the runway while landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Air traffic control was deemed responsible, having failed to keep the Skywest plane off the runway.
- March 22, 1992: USAir flight 405, a Fokker F.28 Fellowship, took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York at a low airspeed with too much ice on its wings, causing it to stall. It crashed into the water and bobbed up to the surface almost upside down: 27 of the 51 on board died. The pilots and mechanics were blamed for using incorrect procedures.
- July 2, 1994: USAir flight 1016, a Douglas DC-9, ran into a wind shear and crashed into a house near Charlotte Douglas International Airport, killing 37 of the 57 people on board. The pilots and air traffic control were both blamed for using incorrect procedures.
- September 8, 1994: USAir flight 427, a 737, was knocked off course in the wake of a Delta Air Lines Boeing 727 outside Pittsburgh, and dove almost straight down into the ground from 6,000 feet, killing all 132 people on board. Nobody was overtly blamed for the accident, but both ATC and the pilots were aware of the 727's position.
After it changed its name in 1997, US Airways placed massive orders for new Airbus aircraft, expanded its international network, and moved to the more efficient Sabre reservations system. Then came September 11, 2001, and soon enough, US Airways was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Since the attacks, they have furloughed 60% of their flight attendants and 30% of their pilots, and plan to sell 21 aircraft.
But for now, here's what their fleet looks like:
Boeing 767: 11
Boeing 757: 32
Boeing 737: 131
Airbus A330: 9
Airbus A321: 28
Airbus A320: 24
Airbus A319: 66
US Airways flies 1,400 flights a day to 92 airports, and barring any further layoffs, has some 35,000 employees, many at headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Before they filed for bankruptcy, they were listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the symbol U. They are now solvent once more, but have yet to return to the big board.