Beautifully engraved certificate from the America West Airlines
issued in 1989. This historic document was printed by American Bank Note Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of the company logo. This item has the signatures of the Company's President, Ed Beauvais and Secretary and is over 17 years old.
One of the 1980s' greatest business success stories, the airline was established in February 1981 and started on August 1, 1983 using three Boeing 737 aircraft flying out of their base in Phoenix, Arizona with Ed Beauvais as CEO. At the start, you could buy tickets on board the aircraft.
The airline quickly expanded, with 11 737s operating flights to 13 cities, developing a secondary hub in Las Vegas, Nevada by the end of 1983, and in 1984 grew to 21 aircraft and 23 cities.
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 trained in dispatch, and both baggage handlers and flight attendants 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 utilized 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 Airbus A320 at Detroit-Metropolitan Airport, Michigan, USA, in March 2004In 1985, America West had grown to the point that no more gate space was available at Sky Harbor International Airport. While the new Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor was approved in 1986, it became apparent that additional gates would be needed before Terminal 4 was completed, and a temporary concourse was added to the southwest corner of the Airport's Terminal 3, adding six gates (eventually a total of 11 gates by 1990) for the use of America West.
The airline's rapid growth continued in 1986, with the airline greatly expanding its fleet, primarily with Boeing 757s purchased from Northwest Airlines after Northwest bought out Republic Airlines, as well as the acquisition of a number of De Havilland Dash 8 aircraft for local service from Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Also in 1986, the airline started running red-eye flights from Las Vegas to increase aircraft utilization.
The rapid growth of America West resulted in large operating losses for the airline, and by 1986 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Originally slated to occupy the vast majority of the gates in the under-construction Terminal 4, America West had to reduce its commitment to the city of Phoenix to just 28 gates, with the growing Southwest Airlines agreeing to lease the remainder of Terminal 4.
Despite revenue problems, America West continued its growth, with a rebuffed attempted buyout of Eastern Air Lines "shuttle" division in 1988. In 1989, the airline purchased four Boeing 747 aircraft (formerly operated by KLM), offering service to Hawaii and Nagoya, Japan, as well as an expansion of service to many Mexican destinations.
In 1990, the airline moved into the new Terminal 4 and also took the delivery of several Airbus A320 aircraft that were destined for the now-defunct Braniff Airways. The A320's were sold to America West at a steep discount. Braniff had assumed the Airbus A320 order after purchasing the original order rights from Pan Am, another troubled carrier.
Despite these developments, the airline continued to lose money. The operating expenses at the new Terminal 4 were much larger than previous expenses in Terminal 3's temporary concourse. The Nagoya, Japan route was essentially a bust (the planes were flying with almost no passengers), with extremely low ticket sales. Finally, concerns about stability in the Gulf States in the lead-up to the Persian Gulf War lead to increasing fuel costs. This combination forced America West to file for bankruptcy in June, 1991.
America West operated in bankruptcy from 1991 to 1994. As part of its restructuring, the employee stock became worthless, the Hawaii and Nagoya routes were scrapped (and the 747s sold), and the airline's fleet was heavily pared down to 87 aircraft. All of the Dash 8 aircraft were sold, and America West's service to local markets was contracted to Mesa Airlines, which began conducting operations as "America West Express."
The bankruptcy forced a number of changes on the management side as well. Founder and CEO Ed Beauvais was removed as CEO, but remained on the board of directors, while Mike Conway, who had been with the airline since its start, was appointed as the new CEO, although he in turn would leave the airline in 1994, replaced by A. Maurice Myers. America West's Flight Attendants also unionized in 1993, a move which ended the cross-utilization between CSRs, flight attendants, and ground agents. Many maintenance and training functions that were previously operated by America West in-house were also outsourced during the bankruptcy.
Finally, in 1994 America West managed to secure a reorganization that allowed it to come out of bankruptcy, with a large portion of the airline owned by a partnership including Mesa Airlines and Continental Airlines, which resulted in code-sharing agreements with these airlines.
To help reinvigorate the airline as it emerged from bankruptcy, a number of consumer-visible changes occurred, including a new color scheme and logo (still in use as of 2005), new livery, E-ticket, and online ticket purchasing (in 1996). The airline continued ordering Airbus A320 aircraft, and gradually started retiring its older Boeing 737-200 aircraft.
In 1990s, America West Airlines opened an east coast hub at Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. Chautauqua Airlines was used to provide commuter and regional flights. An America West Club was provided for the hub.
In 2000s America West Airlines received a loan of $380 million from the Air Transportation Stabilization Board. As of April 2005, the remaining balance on the loan was $300 million. On October 19, 2005, the load was repaid when the debt was refinanced with other lenders.
In February of 2003, America West Airlines announced plans to close the Port Columbus International Airport hub. The closure was completed later that year reducing the number of scheduled flights from near 50 a day to only 4.
America West Airlines, in conjunction with SkyMedia International, pioneered advertising space inside the cabin of the aircraft as an additional revenue source to help bring costs down. The companies developed FAA approved tray-table advertising.
On May 19, 2005, America West Holdings Corporation announced it would merge with the Arlington, Virginia based US Airways Group. The new entity is named US Airways Group and is headquartered in America West's former corporate offices. The merger was completed on September 27, 2005, and America West now operates under the US Airways brand. A merger of the two airlines' FAA operating certificates is expected in 2007.