Challenges like deregulation of the industry, competition, fuel price increases, and 9/11 have made it hard for airlines to survive.
Here are some now extinct airlines you might have heard of and in no particular order:
Trans World Airlines (TWA) (1930-2001)
Trans World Airlines might be best known to mainstream audiences as the company of Howard Hughes. Originally, TWA came to be from a merger with Western Air and Transcontinental Air Transport in 1930. The merger was government mandated.
Hughes didn’t start TWA but took control of the airlines in 1939. The company dominated the skies for years but ultimately the management of second primary shareholder Carl Ichan drove it into the ground. American Airlines bought it in 2001.
U.S. Airways (1979-2015)
Originally started as All American Aviation in 1937 and went through a few changes before it actually became the U.S. Airways. American Airlines absorbed U.S. Airways in 2015.
U.S. Airways is probably most famous for Flight 1549 — “the miracle on the Hudson.” In 2009, pilot Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger was able to successfully land Flight 1549 safely on the Hudson River after a flock of geese knocked out the engines. Sullenberger saved all 155 people on board with this manoeuvre.
Pan American World Airlines (Pan Am) (1927-1991)
The big American company had a long reign of glory, even once flying Brit rockers The Beatles to New York City in 1964. Pan American had big ambitions, even wanting to fly people to the moon!
After 64 years of flying around the world, Pan Am closed its doors for good in 1991. The announcement was made one day after it was supposed to emerge from almost one year of operating under bankruptcy court protection.
Continental Airlines (1934-2012)
This airline company isn’t actually, really dead. However, it might have been if it hadn’t merged with United Airlines’ parent company, the UAL Corporation in 2012 for $3 billion. Following the merger, the companies revealed a new logo for their operations. Continental Airlines employees still wear the Continental uniform while on the job.
This company wasn’t in business for very long. It had a network of 28 U.S. destinations while in existence. The tragic crash that led to ValuJet’s end was Flight 592 in 1996. All 110 passengers on board were killed during the crash.
Hooters Air (2003-2006)
Hooters Air was in business for three years. It operated under Pace Airlines which was owned by Hooters owner, Robert Brooks. Hooters flew passengers to places in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
Hooters Air closed for several reasons, including a $40 million loss and operating within a tough industry.
Braniff International Airways (1928-1982)
This airline was based in Texas, covering the South, Midwest, and Latin America. There were several factors that led Braniff to go out of business, namely the chaotic oil market, the Airline Deregulation Act, and fallout from the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization strike. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker named their production company ‘Braniff Productions’ after Braniff.
Chalk’s International Airlines (1919-1980’s)
A.B. Chalk started this company in Miami, Florida. Initially, he sold flying lessons, air tours of Miami, and trips to the nearest Bahamian island, Bimini. As the company expanded, Chalk’s began taking famous passengers like Howard Hughes and Errol Flynn.
After Chalk died at age 88, his company went through various owners and then eventually got bought up by United Capital Corp. Chalk’s had a long run for76 years!
Flying Tiger Line (1945-1989)
This was an air cargo carrier with service spanning the globe. Founded in 1945 by a group of pilots from the famous Flying Tiger fighter squadron who protected the Burma Road to China from the Japanese during World War II.
Flying Tiger Line’s parent company, Tiger International Inc., had suffered some financial losses throughout the years. While he was chairman of Tiger International, Stephen M. Wolf helped the company profit but he eventually left. Tiger was bought by Federal Express in the late 1980s for $880 million.
Air America (1950-1975)
Like the action-adventure movie of the same name, Air America was owned by the U.S. government, and the U.S. Treasury received the profits from its eventual sale.
Air America was run by CIA personnel initially, while other accounts gathered say it was used as a dummy corporation for the CIA operations in Southeast Asia. Planes did serve alongside military and intelligence agents often in Asia.
Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. (1975 to 2013)
Not every airline has its own non-profit museum dedicated to aviation. Evergreen opened one in 2000, close to its Oregon headquarters. It featured some things that would floor any airline nerd — for example, it had the “Spruce Goose,” an unsuccessful cargo airplane created by Howard Hughes.
Evergreen International Aviation was sued by its former museum director, who alleged the company stole $600,000 from the museum.