Monday, August 17, 2015

As US Airways Goes Away, American Plans a Commemorative Last Day

The last US Airways flight will have the flight number 1939, commemorating the year the airline was founded, and the designated aircraft will make a final tour on Oct. 16.
US Airways predecessor All American Aviation operated its first official flight on May 12, 1939, with a cutting-edge concept that involved airborne planes picking up mailbags suspended from cables in isolated sites in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania.

The airline went through a series of name changes first to Allegheny, then to USAir and then to US Airways. In 2013 US Airways merged with American. Flight 1939 will be the last flight with a US Airways flight number.

The A321 aircraft will make a tour that includes three hubs, each a key city in a predecessor airline

Flight 1939 will depart Philadelphia for Charlotte at 10:05 a.m. EDT. Pittsburgh was the true home of Allegheny, but the Pittsburgh hub was closed as US Airways restructured in bankruptcy.

Charlotte was the principal hub for Piedmont Airlines, which merged with US Air in 1989. Over time, under the direction of former airport director Jerry Orr, Charlotte supplanted Pittsburgh as US Airways' biggest hub.

Flight 1939 will depart Charlotte for Phoenix at 2:35 p.m. Phoenix was the principal hub for America West, which merged with US Airways in 2005. It is the America West management team, led by Doug Parker and largely intact, that engineered the merger with American and that now runs the world's biggest airline.

Flight 1939 will depart Phoenix for San Francisco at 5:10 p.m. For its last trip, flight 1939, formerly flight 434, will depart San Francisco for Philadelphia at 9:55 p.m.

San Francisco seems an odd choice, since it has long been a United hub where American and US Airways have had a minimal presence, even though both carriers acquired West Coast airlines, AirCal in 1987 and PSA in 1988, respectively.

American spokeswoman Martha Thomas said the flight was selected to be the last one after the Oct. 16 and Oct. 17 schedules at US Airways hubs were pared down in order to assure that employees would have sufficient time to focus on the cutover from Shares to Sabre reservations systems.

 A total of a few hundred flights involving US Airways hubs have been cancelled on the two days, she said. Passengers on the last flight will include former US Air CEO Ed Colodny.

"It's the end of the name, not the end of the airline as such, but the end of the name, and I just thought it would be neat to fly on the last flight," Colodny said in an interview. "It's for nostalgia."

At each of the four stops as well as on the final flight, American plans celebratory events, Thomas said. Besides the final flight, another planned step in the termination of a separate US Airways will be the shutdown of the Pittsburgh operations center, now scheduled for late August.

For decades, dispatchers, routers and others in Pittsburgh have helped commercial flights operated by US Airways and its predecessors navigate the nation's skies," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. "But it's an era that soon will end, taking about 650 jobs with it."

The Pittsburgh center will handle its last flight on Aug. 23. More than half of the workers will move to a new American operations center in Fort Worth, Texas.

(Ted Reed - The Street)

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