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America West Airlines

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America West Airlines

America West Airlines
Founded February 1981[1]
Commenced operations August 1, 1983[1]
Ceased operations 2005 (merged with US Airways)
Frequent-flyer program FlightFund
Airport lounge America West Club
Fleet size 140
Destinations 95
Company slogan What We Serve Is You
Across the U.S. and Pacific, what we serve is you"[2]
The More You Fly, The More We Make Sense [3]
Every flight counts[4]
It seems silly to pay more
Get on board
Parent company America West Holdings
Headquarters Tempe, Arizona, USA
Key people

America West Airlines was a U.S. airline headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. Their main hub was at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, with a secondary hub at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. The airline became part of the US Airways Group after a merger in 2005.[5] America West was the second largest low-cost carrier in the US after Southwest Airlines and served approximately 100 destinations in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Service to Europe was provided through codeshare partners. In March 2005, the airline operated a fleet of 140 aircraft, with a single maintenance base at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix.

Beginning in January 2006, all America West flights were branded as US Airways, along with most signage at airports and other printed material, though many flights were described as "operated by America West." Apart from two heritage aircraft, the only remaining America West branding on aircraft can be found on some seat covers and bulkheads. The merged airline uses America West's "CACTUS" callsign and ICAO code "AWE", but retained the US Airways name. In February 2013, American Airlines and US Airways announced plans to merge, creating the largest airline in the world.[6]


The early years

The airline was established in February 1981 and began operations August 1, 1983, using three leased Boeing 737 aircraft flying out of their base in Phoenix, Arizona, with Ed Beauvais, a well-known airline industry consultant, as their CEO.[7] In the early years, passengers could purchase their tickets on board the aircraft.

The airline quickly expanded, with 11 737s operating flights to 13 cities, and by late 1983 they developed a secondary hub in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1984, America West's fleet grew to 21 aircraft operating flights to 23 cities. [1] has timetable maps showing America West routes in 1983, 1984, and 1991.

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 being 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 used 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. America West pilots and other employees were paid wages far below those of their competitors. Pilot salary history, MIT Study.
Revenue Passenger-Kilometers, in millions
Year Traffic
1984 2006
1985 3675
1990 17869
1995 21420
2000 30753
2005 39036
Source: Air Transport World
Former America West logo

By 1985 America West had outgrown their gate space at Sky Harbor International Airport, and during the construction of Terminal 4, approved in 1986, a temporary concourse was added to the southwest corner of Terminal 3 to give them six more gates (growing to eleven by 1990).

The airline's rapid growth continued in 1986, and the airline greatly expanded their fleet, primarily with Boeing 757s purchased from Northwest Airlines after Northwest bought out Republic Airlines, as well as a number of De Havilland Canada Dash 8 aircraft for local service from Phoenix and Las Vegas. The airline started running red-eye flights from Las Vegas to increase aircraft utilization.

Boeing 747-200 at Sky Harbor Airport in 1991.

America West's rapid growth resulted in large operating losses, and by 1986 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Originally slated to occupy the vast majority of the gates in Terminal 4, the airline had to reduce their commitment to the city of Phoenix to just 28 gates, with the growing Southwest Airlines agreeing to lease the remainder of Terminal 4.

In August 1987, a unit of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd., an Australian airline company and at the time 50% owned by News Corporation, purchased a 21.6 percent stake in America West.

In 1988, Patrick Thurston, Vice-President of Operations, Bob Russell, Chief of Pilots, and Carl Wobser, a captain, all pleaded guilty to multiple counts of narcotics trafficking. [8]

In 1989, Ansett Transport Ltd. used their influence and investment money in America West Airlines, to try to break a pilots strike in Australia. 1989 Australian pilots' dispute. The following article is from an America West pilot who crossed the Australian pilots' picket line. The Down UnderWare Chronicles America West Pilot article.

As they 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. The proposal was rejected, however, and the Reagan Administration awarded the route to another airline. America West leased four Boeing 747 aircraft (formerly operated by KLM), offering service to Hawaii and Nagoya, Japan, as well as expanded service to many Mexican destinations.

In 1990, the airline moved into the new Terminal 4 and also took delivery of several Airbus A320 aircraft originally destined for the now-defunct Braniff Airways. Braniff had purchased the original aircraft order rights from Pan Am, another troubled carrier, and the A320s were sold to America West at a steep discount. The U.S. Department of Transportation started classifying America West Airlines as a major airline.[7]

Despite these developments, the airline continued to lose money. Operating expenses at Terminal 4 were far higher than in the temporary Terminal 3 concourse. The Nagoya route experienced extremely low ticket sales, and flights there were flying with almost no passengers. In addition, tensions in the leadup to the Gulf War were causing fuel costs to rise. The combined impact forced America West to file for bankruptcy in June 1991.

In June 1995, W. Douglas Parker joined America West Airlines as senior vice president and chief financial officer. He was elected chairman, president and CEO in September 2001.[2]

July 1998 America West Airline Fined $2.5 Million for Violations.

August 2000 FAA May Ground America West.


America West Boeing 737-300 and America West Express Beech 1900 at Sky Harbor International Airport (1995).

America West operated under bankruptcy from 1991 to 1994. As part of their restructuring, employee stock became worthless, the airline's 747s and Dash 8s were sold, and the fleet was heavily pared down to 87 aircraft. Hawaii and Nagoya routes were scrapped and America West service to local markets was contracted to Mesa Airlines, which began conducting operations as America West Express.

On the management side, Founder Ed Beauvais was removed as CEO, remaining on the board of directors, and was replaced with Mike Conway, who had been with the airline since the start. Conway left the airline in 1994, replaced as CEO by A. Maurice Myers.

America West's flight attendants unionized in 1993, ending cross-utilization between customer service agents, flight attendants, and ground agents. Several maintenance and training functions previously operated in-house by America West were outsourced during the bankruptcy.


America West Airlines Airbus A319 departing Portland International Airport

In 1994, America West was finally able to secure a reorganization allowing them to come out of bankruptcy, with a large portion of the airline owned by a partnership including Mesa Airlines and Continental Airlines, resulting in code-sharing agreements with these airlines.

To help reinvigorate the airline as they 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-tickets, and online ticket purchasing in 1996. The airline continued ordering Airbus A320 aircraft and began gradually retiring their older Boeing 737-200s.

In the 1990s, America West opened an east coast hub at Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio, using Chautauqua Airlines to provide commuter and regional flights. An America West Club was provided for the hub in the space previously used as a TWA Ambassadors' Club.

In late 2001, America West was the first airline to apply for and receive a loan from the Air Transportation Stabilization Board.[9] As of April 2005, the remaining balance on the loan was $300 million. The ATSB loan and its guarantees were paid back by US Airways and the debt refinanced by other lenders during the merger.[10]

In 2003, America West Airlines closed its Port Columbus hub, reducing the number of scheduled daily flights from almost 50 to 4.

US Airways

An Airbus A320 in the current America West / US Airways livery at San Diego International Airport
A traveler boards an America West Express CRJ-200 jet

In the second quarter of 2005, America West entered into merger negotiations with then-bankrupt US Airways. It was structured as a purchase of US Airways by America West Holdings Corporation; however, the internal structure was a reverse merger, with legacy US Airways operations taken over by those of America West.

As the holding companies merged, brand conversion began. The America West Club was renamed the US Airways Club in October 2005. All new America West aircraft were delivered in the new US Airways livery, and older aircraft repainted (while retaining America West interiors). Gates and ticket counters were consolidated at airports where both airlines had operated, aided by the March 2007 transfer of all US Airways reservations to the Shares computer system used by America West (US Airways had previously used a very different Sabre system).

All express flights were branded as US Airways Express, and aircraft were no longer confined to operations out of their pre-merger hubs (America West aircraft could fly from Philadelphia to destinations other than Phoenix and Las Vegas, for example). The two airlines' operating certificates were merged in September 2007. After initially using the "CACTUS" callsign for the west fleet and "USAIR" for the east fleet, all aircraft began flying under a single "CACTUS" callsign and ICAO code "AWE" in September 2008. Former America West aircraft can be distinguished apart from US Airways pre-merger aircraft by their use of registrations ending in "-AW", while pre-merger US Airways aircraft use registrations ending in "-US".



An America West Boeing 757-200

All outstanding America West orders were transferred to the merged entity, US Airways.

Aircraft counts accurate as of December 2006, according to FAA records.

Previous aircraft


The airline had a frequent flyer program called FlightFund.[12] In 2006, FlightFund was merged into the US Airways Dividend Miles program.

Partner airlines or programs for Dividend Miles (formerly FlightFund) include:

Codeshare agreements

America West had codeshare agreements with the following airlines in January 2007:

Former codeshare agreements


The headquarters of America West Airlines in Tempe, which also served as the headquarters for US Airways post-acquisition.

America West has its headquarters in Tempe, Arizona from the airline's start in 1983, and continues with their successors (after the merger, they have acquired the more-popular names of the airlines they acquired).[15] The airline used a nine-story,[16] 225,000 square feet (20,900 m2) building as its headquarters which continues to be corporate headquarters after acquisitions,[17] which began using the building as its headquarters. Jahna Berry of the Arizona Business Gazette said in 2005 that the building "is one of the dominant buildings in downtown Tempe."[15] The City of Tempe gave America West $11 million in incentives and tax breaks so it could occupy the headquarters, which cost $37 million to construct.[18] The construction of the building began in January 1998; the groundbreaking ceremony was held on February 19 of that year.[19] The previous America West headquarters were demolished.[20]

Other commercial interests

America West had promotional partnerships with the Phoenix Suns NBA team, the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, and the Arizona Cardinals NFL team.

In 1992, America West paid $26 million for the 30-year naming rights of the write-offs.

Flight Date Aircraft Location Descriptions Injuries
America West Flight 450 December 30, 1989 737-200 Tucson, Arizona A fire in the wheel well burned through hydraulic cabling. During landing, braking was ineffective and the aircraft overran the end of the runway. After colliding with a concrete structure, the plane came to a stop. The aircraft was written off. NTSB probable cause 10 minor
America West Flight 727 January 16, 1990 737-300 Austin, Texas On January 16, 1990, America West flight 727 was hijacked en route to Las Vegas from Houston. The hijacker forced the pilot to land the aircraft in Austin, Texas, so it could be refueled and flown to Cuba. At the Austin airport, police overpowered and arrested the hijacker. none
America West Flight 556 July 1, 2002 A319-100 Miami, Florida The flight was halted by Transportation Security Administration and local police after a tip that the pilots appeared to be drunk. Sobriety tests showed that the pilots were legally intoxicated, and they were eventually sentenced to prison for operating an aircraft while intoxicated. none
America West Flight 794 August 28, 2002 A320-231 Phoenix, Arizona The pilot failed to maintain directional control during landing, causing the aircraft to veer off the side of the runway onto a dirt infield, and the nose gear strut collapsed. The aircraft was written off. NTSB brief 1 serious, 9 minor


  1. ^ a b Norwood, Tom; Wegg, John (2002). North American Airlines Handbook (3rd ed.). Sandpoint, ID: Airways International.  
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ US Airways To Merge, Move Base To Arizona, Washington Post article.
  6. ^ Diane Bartz and Karen Jacobs (July 1, 2013). "State Attorneys General Join Probe Of American Airlines, U.S. Airways Merger".  
  7. ^ a b "America West Holdings Corporation". Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  9. ^ Air Transportation Stabilization Board Conditionally Approves Application By America West U.S. Treasury
  10. ^ US Air Uses Cash To Buy Back ATSB Stock From 2005 October
  11. ^ America West Airlines fleet details
  12. ^ "Welcome to FlightFund." America West Airlines. October 22, 1996. Retrieved on October 1, 2009.
  13. ^ British Airways ends code-share with America West ended on December 31, 2005
  14. ^ Continental Ends Ticket Alliance With America West New York Times Online Archives
  15. ^ a b Berry, Jahna. "Tempe breathes a sigh on AmWest merger plan." Arizona Business Gazette. June 2, 2005. Retrieved on March 1, 2010.
  16. ^ "Phoenix mostly shrugs at prospect of Delta merger." Atlanta Journal Constitution. November 19, 2006. A1. Retrieved on March 1, 2010. "More than 700 people work at US Airways' nine-story headquarters."
  17. ^ "Article: Carey Diversified Finances America West Headquarters; $25 Million Non-Recourse Mortgage Secured by Recently Completed Facility." PR Newswire. July 27, 1999. Retrieved on March 1, 2010.
  18. ^ "United-America West Deal Has Implications Across The West .." Associated Press at Lodi News-Sentinel. Friday January 22, 1999. Business 13. Retrieved from Google News (8 of 38) on March 1, 2010.
  19. ^ "America West Completes Financing of New Corporate Headquarters." PR Newswire. February 19, 1998. Retrieved on March 1, 2010.
  20. ^ Lehman, William. "Part VII - America West." US Airways. Retrieved on February 18, 2010.

External links

  • America West Airlines (Archive)
  • One pilot's experience
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