Champion Air

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Champion Air
ChampionAir logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded July 1995
Ceased operations May 31, 2008
Hubs Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
Secondary hubs Denver International Airport
McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
Focus cities Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
Will Rogers World Airport (Oklahoma City)
Frequent-flyer program No Program
Alliance No Alliance
Fleet size 16
Destinations Varied
Parent company Grand Holdings Inc
Headquarters Bloomington, Minnesota, USA
Key people Lee Steele - CEO

Champion Air was an airline based in Bloomington, Minnesota, USA. It operated general charter services to sports teams, vacation wholesalers and government agencies. It also offered limited scheduled service. Its main base was Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, with hubs at Denver International Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, and Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. The airline ceased all operations on May 31, 2008.[1] Until its shutdown, the airline was a prime contractor for the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System.


In 1987, MGM Grand Air (IATA: MGICAO: MGMCall sign: Grand Air), a charter airline owned by MGM Mirage,[2] with a focus on operating VIP charters with luxurious aircraft, was established, starting operations in September 1987.[3] Operating Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 727 aircraft in lavish configurations, MGM Grand Air operated charter service as well as scheduled service between Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York using aircraft with an all premium seating configuration.[citation needed] MGM Grand had its headquarters in El Segundo, California.[4]

By 1994, with business jets gaining popularity with celebrities and business leaders, MGM Grand Air was no longer profitable, and the company sought to sell it off. The buyer was Front Page Tours, a small tour operator based in Edina, Minnesota dedicated to providing airlift to sports teams and their fans to major sporting events. The air operator's certificate was purchased from MGM Grand Air in July 1995. The name was changed to Champion Air and the fleet was standardized on the Boeing 727.

In March 1997, Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad and Northwest Airlines acquired the company from Richard Page. The airline relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where it shared facilities and resources with Northwest. Champion Air replaced Sun Country Airlines as the leading charter operator for Northwest-owned MLT Vacations. In 2003, five Champion Air executives supposedly completed a management buy-out to take control of the airline. This was a facade created to prevent the, at the time, higher cost NWA pilots and union from forcing NWA to move the flying to the NWA union pilots. The airline continued to operate both VIP and general charters for MLT and other operators. Champion Air continued to be run behind the scenes by NWA executives, including an all NWA BoD, etc.

However, in late summer 2007 Champion Air management was informed that MLT passengers would be moved from Champion Air to Northwest's own flights throughout the 2008 year. This was a significant blow, as MLT Vacations accounted for roughly 75-80 percent of all operations. In January 2008, it was disclosed that Champion's contract to provide charter flights for 13 National Basketball Association teams would also be taken over by Northwest, who had hired several Champion Air pilots in the preceding months.[5]

On March 31, 2008, Champion President and CEO Lee Steele announced that "the company will cease all flight operations as of May 31, 2008." He cited high fuel costs and the inefficiency of their aging Boeing 727-200 fleet as some of the major reasons behind the shutdown. "Our business model is no longer viable in a world of $110 oil, a struggling economy and rapidly changing demand for our services" The carrier will not be filing bankruptcy.[6]

The airline is wholly owned by Champion Air Management[7] and had 737 employees as of January 2005.

A Champion Air 727 landing at McCarran International Airport


As of March 2007 the Champion Air fleet included:[7]

  • 6 Boeing 727-200 Advanced aircraft equipped with 56 Business Class Seating
  • 10 Boeing 727-200 Advanced aircraft equipped with all Coach Class Seating


An ex Champion Air 727-200 N293AS[8] (known as N293AS during Champion Air ownership) was used in the Channel 4 (UK) / Discovery Channel (USA) experiment where the aircraft was crashed on a dried lake in Northern Mexico.


  1. ^ "Champion Air to Cease Flight Operations May 31st". 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-31. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Nevada Gaming Abstract - MGM MIRAGE Company Profile". Retrieved 2007-03-26. 
  3. ^ Gellene, Denise (September 7, 1987). "MGM Grand Air Takes a Flier in Luxury Service". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 28, 2010. 
  4. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 23–29, 1994. 106.
  5. ^ "Champion Air to go out of business in May,", March 31, 2008
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 2007-04-03. p. 63. 
  8. ^

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