America West Airlines

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
America West Airlines
America West Airlines Logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
FoundedFebruary 1981[1]
Commenced operationsAugust 1, 1983[1]
Ceased operations2005 (became US Airways) 2015 (acquired by American Airlines)
Secondary hubs
Frequent-flyer programFlightFund
Fleet size132
Company sloganWhat 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 companyAmerica West Holdings
HeadquartersTempe, Arizona, USA
Key people at the Wayback Machine (archive index)

America West Airlines was a U.S. regional 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 was acquired by US Airways Group in 2005 and adopted the US Airways brand name.[5] America West 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 132 aircraft, with a single maintenance base at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. Regional jet and/or turboprop feeder flights were operated on a code sharing basis by Mesa Airlines and Chautauqua Airlines as America West Express.

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 used America West's "CACTUS" callsign and ICAO code "AWE", but retained the US Airways name. As part of a merger between American Airlines and US Airways in February 2013,[6] which led to American becoming the world's largest airline, the call sign and ICAO code name was later retired on April 8, 2015 when the FAA granted a single operating certificate for both US Airways and American Airlines.[7] The US Airways brand continued until October 17, 2015, when American Airlines retired the name.


The early years[edit]

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 (PHX), with Ed Beauvais, a well-known airline industry consultant, as their CEO.[8] 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 1986 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] (Timetableimages has timetable maps showing America West routes in 1983, 1984, and 1991.)

A potential sign of the carrier's ever optimistic vision and confidence in its future expansion, the increasingly dominant carrier at Phoenix Sky Harbor exerted its influence over the development of Terminal 4. America West requested that the construction include an auxiliary power facility and an underground cavity to accommodate a future rail station which the airport ultimately agreed to.[9]

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 also 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 (see 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 757-200s purchased from Northwest Airlines (following Northwest's acquisition of Republic Airlines) as well as a number of de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprop aircraft for local service from Phoenix and Las Vegas including flights to Grand Canyon National Park Airport. The airline also started operating red-eye flights from Las Vegas in order 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, 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.[10]

In 1989, Ansett used its influence and investment money in America West Airlines to have them fly three aircraft in charter service after the Australian pilots resigned their jobs due to a dispute (not a strike) with the Australian government, which regulated the airline industry in that country. (1989 Australian pilots' dispute). The following article is from a pilot involved: : The Down UnderWare Chronicles America West Pilot article.

As they explored destinations beyond the United States, America West filed with U.S. Department of Transportation for a Phoenix-to-Sydney route in order to provide connections with now-defunct Ansett Airlines in Australia. The proposal was rejected, however, and the Reagan Administration awarded the route to another airline. America West leased four Boeing 747-200 aircraft (formerly operated by KLM) and began operating nonstop wide body 747 service between Phoenix and Honolulu, Hawaii and also nonstop between Honolulu and Nagoya, Japan. The 747 was the only wide body aircraft ever operated by America West. The airline also expanded narrow body jet service to Mexican destinations.

In 1990, America West moved into the new Terminal 4 at Phoenix 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.[8]

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 would later be elected chairman, president and CEO in September 2001.[2] The airline would be fined $2,500,000 for maintenance violations in July 1998 (America West Airline Fined $2.5 Million for Violations.), and in August 2000, the FAA was reportedly prepared to ground the airline for these violations. (see FAA May Ground America West.)


America West Boeing 737-300 and America West Express Beechcraft 1900D 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 feeder service to smaller cities and local markets was contracted to Mesa Airlines, which began conducting operations as America West Express utilizing regional jet and turboprop aircraft.

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 respective 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 and Mesa Airlines to provide commuter and regional flights via respective code sharing agreements in addition to mainline jet service. An America West Club was located at the hub in an area previously used for 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.[11] 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.[12]

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

US Airways[edit]

An Airbus A320 in the 2005-2015 America West / US Airways livery at San Diego International Airport
A traveler boards an America West Express CRJ-200 regional jet operated by Mesa Airlines

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 were distinguished apart from US Airways pre-merger aircraft by their use of registrations ending in "-AW", while pre-merger US Airways aircraft used registrations ending in "-US". US Airways would later merge with American Airlines in 2013, with the former America West callsign and ICAO code retired in 2015 (alongside with the US Airways brand). America West's Phoenix hub has remained intact with American Airlines.



An America West Boeing 757-200

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

America West Airlines Fleet
(Before Merging with US Airways)
Aircraft Total
Airbus A319-100
Airbus A320-200
Boeing 737-300
Boeing 757-200

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

Previous aircraft[edit]

America West Airlines Past Fleet[13]
Boeing 737-100
Boeing 727-100
Boeing 737-200
Boeing 747-200
de Havilland Canada DHC-8-100 Dash 8 - only turboprop aircraft directly operated by the airline

America West Express aircraft[edit]

America West Express services primarily operated by Mesa Airlines via a code sharing agreement with America West utilized the following regional jet and turboprop aircraft:

Chautauqua Airlines operated Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft on America West Express services via a code sharing agreement as well.


The airline had a frequent flyer program called FlightFund.[14] In 2006, FlightFund was merged into the US Airways Dividend Miles program.

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

Codeshare agreements[edit]

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

Former codeshare agreements[edit]


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

America West had its headquarters in Tempe, Arizona from the airline's start in 1983, and it retained the same location when it merged with US Airways and retained the US Airways name.[18] The airline used the nine-story[19] 225,000 square feet (20,900 m2) building as its headquarters once the America West and US Airways merged,[20] but the building has since been vacated when US Airways' management team took over American Airlines in an acquisition. Jahna Berry of the Arizona Business Gazette said in 2005 that the building "is one of the dominant buildings in downtown Tempe."[18] 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.[21] The construction of the building began in January 1998; the groundbreaking ceremony was held on February 19 of that year.[22] The previous America West headquarters were demolished.[23]

Other commercial interests[edit]

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 Phoenix Suns' home court, which it named America West Arena. Since the merger with US Airways, the arena was called US Airways Center (not to be confused with the USAir Arena in Prince George's County, Maryland, razed in 2002), until it was renamed to Talking Stick Resort arena.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

America West had four in-flight incidents on its aircraft, but never had an accident resulting in a fatality. Two accidents resulted in hull loss 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. ISBN 0-9653993-8-9. Archived from the original on 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  2. ^ America West 747 Japan commercial. 2 October 2007. Retrieved 20 December 2015 – via YouTube.
  3. ^ America West- The More You Fly. 3 July 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2015 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ 1999 America West Commercial - 1. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2015 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ "US Airways To Merge, Move Base To Arizona". Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  6. ^ Diane Bartz and Karen Jacobs (July 1, 2013). "State Attorneys General Join Probe Of American Airlines, U.S. Airways Merger". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  7. ^ Gilbertson, Dawn (April 10, 2015). "'Cactus' call sign fades into US Airways history". The Arizona Republic.
  8. ^ a b "America West Holdings Corporation". Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  9. ^ Beauvais, Ed (2016). Up, Up And Away, From The Beginning to My Journey's End 1981-1992. Scottsdale, AZ: Ed Beauvais. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-692-45268-4.
  10. ^ "THE PHOENIX-BANGKOK HEROIN CONNECTION". Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  11. ^ Air Transportation Stabilization Board Conditionally Approves Application By America West Archived 2008-09-08 at the Wayback Machine. U.S. Treasury
  12. ^ US Air Uses Cash To Buy Back ATSB Stock From 2005 October
  13. ^ America West Airlines fleet details
  14. ^ ""Welcome to FlightFund"". Archived from the original on October 22, 1996. Retrieved 2017-05-30.. America West Airlines. October 22, 1996. Retrieved on October 1, 2009.
  15. ^ British Airways ends code-share with America West ended on December 31, 2005 Archived 2007-02-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Continental Ends Ticket Alliance With America West New York Times Online Archives
  17. ^, July 1, 2003 America West Airlines route map
  18. ^ a b Berry, Jahna. "Tempe breathes a sigh on AmWest merger plan." Arizona Business Gazette. June 2, 2005. Retrieved on March 1, 2010.
  19. ^ "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."
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ "America West Completes Financing of New Corporate Headquarters." PR Newswire. February 19, 1998. Retrieved on March 1, 2010.
  23. ^ Lehman, William. "Part VII - America West." US Airways. Retrieved on February 18, 2010.

External links[edit]