America West Airlines Boeing 747 operating period

Before looking at America West Airlines’ Boeing 747 flight period between Phoenix, Hawaii and Japan, let’s first look at the history of the airline and what led to the widebody flights. Established in Tempe, Arizona in February 1981, America West Airlines began operations on August 1, 1983, with three leased Boeing 737-200s. Based at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), America West Airlines’ inaugural flight was between Kansas City International Airport (MCI) and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) with a stopover at Colorado Springs Airport (COS).

The company’s CEO was Ed Beauvais, a well-known aviation consultant who knew the people needed to make America West Airlines a success. One of those on board was Mike Conway, who would later become the airline’s president. By 1981 when the airline was founded, the industry had seen several start-up airlines fail due to a poor economy and high inflation.

America West Airlines was helped by the success of People Express

In favor of America West Airlines was that they wanted to create a low-cost carrier. Building on the success of People Express Airlines, the carrier was able to raise $18.75 million in funding through an initial public offering. America West Airlines was also one of the first airlines to use its employees in multiple roles, with pilot dispatchers and flight attendants also serving as ticketing and boarding agents.

Unlike People Express, America West Airlines had assigned seats with free newspaper drinks and large overhead bins. One feature that America West Airlines copied from People Express was the ability for passengers to pay for their tickets on board the aircraft. Although a good idea, it brought complications, such as having to give passengers change. Due to the difficulties, it was quickly abandoned for a traditional ticketing system.

Following its initial success, America West Airlines grew rapidly and had a fleet of 11,737 flying from 13 cities from Phoenix. In 1984, the airline expanded further, serving 23 cities with 21 aircraft. By 1985, the airline was making a profit and added cargo service and overnight flights from McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Vegas being a 24-hour city, night flights have become very popular with passengers.

In 1986, America West Airlines flew an all-Boeing 737 fleet, but purchased six two-class Boeing 757s when Republic Airlines was acquired by Northwest Airlines. America West Airlines used the new 757s for flights from Chicago, New York and Baltimore. At the same time, the airline acquired three DeHavilland Dash 8-200s for connecting flights to Phoenix from Flagstaff. Grand Canyon and Yuma.

America West Airlines looks to the Pacific

The expansion of the 1980s left America West Airlines rock bottom and bankrupt, before Ansett Australia came to the rescue by buying a 21.6% stake in the airline. Now with an Australian co-owner, America West Airlines has started thinking about international flights and asked the Department of Transport to fly between Phoenix and Sydney. Despite the initial enthusiasm, the request was refused. However, America West Airlines received clearance to fly to Hawaii and Japan on the correct side.

On November 15, 1989, America West Airlines launched its first widebody flights with Boeing 747-200s formerly owned by Dutch flag carrier KLM. Operating from Phoenix and Las Vegas, America West Airlines offered passengers nonstop flights to Honolulu, Hawaii on what it called its “Bird of Paradise” service.

From Hawaii, America West wanted to fly its 747s to Tokyo, but when that route was denied, it decided to fly to Chubu Centrair International Airport (ONG) in Nagoya, Japan. The decision to fly to Nagoya proved wrong, with the airline canceling daily flights in favor of three a week due to low passenger numbers.

America West Airlines took delivery of two more Boeing 747-200s in 1990 but had not received clearance to fly to other Pacific destinations. To use the aircraft until they received clearance to fly to other international destinations, America West Airlines used the 747s to fly between Phoenix, Las Vegas and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK ) At New York. Because America West Airlines had to use the old Eastern Air Lines terminal, which had old and poorly maintained equipment, the flights lasted only until the end of the year.

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Bankruptcy protection and merger with US Airways

Now in debt with no improvement in sight, the high cost of jet fuel and its losing 747 flights, the airline filed for bankruptcy on June 27, 1991. In an effort to cut costs, America West Airlines abandoned its Pacific ambitions . At the same time, it also stopped its feeder flights in Arizona giving the routes to Mesa Airlines.

American West Airlines merged with US Airways. Photo: Getty Images

After three years of Chapter 11 protection, America West Airlines emerged from bankruptcy with a smaller fleet but with its hubs still intact. Now wanting a bigger share of the East Coast market, America West Airlines merged with US Airways in 2005, adopting the name and livery of the Pittsburgh-based airline.


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