Despite introducing 727s and swallowing several smaller Alaskan operators, the early 1970s was another difficult time for Alaska Airlines, which had been leading a hand to mouth existence for many years. Led by the wheeler dealing, but also irascible and dictatorial, Charles "Chuck" Willis Alaska had a mountain of debt, poor reputation and very little cash. Change was needed if the airline was to survive.
Alaska Airlines had improved its situation in the 1970s but found itself once again in a precarious financial position just as deregulation came into view. Considering its small size, financial weakness, lack of penetration into the lower 48 and turbulent history it is surprising that it was able to turn itself into one of the few winners of the post-deregulation era. The first step was cracking the Californian market.
During the 1960s the local service airlines of the United States were growing fast. Not only were they re-equipping their fleets but they were being assigned large numbers of routes by the CAB that had been discarded by the larger airlines. Meanwhile Boeing, Douglas and BAC were keen to sell as many of their new short-haul jets as possible. Boeing even managed to interest several airlines in its medium sized 727 and one of these was Frontier. Like most of the local service airlines however the 727 was still too much jet for their 1960s network.
IGS operations had been a close battle between Pan Am and BEA, with Air France always a distant third, despite their Caravelle service to Tegel. Flying into Templehof was what mattered and Pan Am had managed to counter the introduction of turboprop Viscounts with frequency and the lower costs of the DC-6Bs. 1966 would see Pan Am turn the tables as it introduced the first regular jet service into Templehof on IGS routes.
The Pacific islands have a proud history of colourful flag carriers, however the majority of the region’s airlines have struggled with their remoteness, the limited investment capability of their home nations and competition from Australia and New Zealand. Polynesian Airlines’ history illustrates all three aspects during its history.
Nowadays Venezuela is in a sorry state, wracked by economic collapse, hyper-inflation and a dictatorial regime. The pathway to this has been long and complex and has gradually taken a toll of the airline’s once rich aviation scene, so that only a handful of airlines survive and connections with international destinations are sporadic. One of the highest profile failures was that of AVENSA who had started operations in 1943.
During its first 20 years of operation Ozark had fulfilled exactly the promise that the local service airlines had been created for. It had started and proved a wide range of feeder services and grown demand to the point that it could sustain not just prop-jets but pure jets as well. Even better it had done so profitably and begun to wean itself off of subsidy and pick-up longer routes that the trunk airlines no longer wanted. All in all it found itself in good position to grow into the 1970s and face the challenges of deregulation to come.
The rise and fall of Harding Lawrence’s Braniff International is so well known that in aviation it has become something of a byword for mismanagement and a case study for the impact of deregulation. In many ways it was a harbinger of the bloodbath that the 1980s would become for US carriers however in others it was unique. Nonetheless back in 1978 everything seemed rosy at Braniff and the airline would celebrate its Golden anniversary with the introduction of a new look.
As the 1960s drew to a close the CAB in the USA was looking for ways to wean the local service airlines off of subsidies. This meant a gradual movement away from serving local communities and instead using economies of scale to serve wider regions. The result was mergers, including the unique tri-merger that created 'The airline that had to happen' - Air West!
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: