Adios, America West

It was a bittersweet day last Wednesday, Sep 26, when America West and US Airways officially merged on to one operating certificate. Yes, they still have workgroups to merge, but in the eyes of the FAA, they are one airline. That means America West is truly no more, and that’s a sad day for me.

atdeskI started working at America West as a summer intern during college ten years ago. I continued to intern with the airline throughout my college years, and I moved back to Phoenix to work in Pricing/Revenue Management in 1999. I spent the next three years there, only leaving in September 2002 to attend business school. At right, you can see me at my desk on one of my last days with the airline.

dcaplanehatI have so many memories, good and bad, of my time there . . . the rollout of the first A319, the summer of 2000 meltdown (and going to help out at the Passenger Assistance Counters), the Eagle outage, the opening of the new Washington/National airport (at left), watching that first flight come in to Phoenix after September 11. I could go on and on.

I am probably most proud of my involvement in the 2002 transformation of the airline into a low fare carrier. I basically lived in the office that last week leading up to the change. Getting there at 6a and leaving at 2a for a short nap was not my idea of fun, but Red Bull, coffee, ukulele music, and a plastic candy cane got us through it. Don’t ask.

I used to travel a lot while I was there. In all, I took 209 flights on America West and America West Express going over 165,000 miles. True, almost a quarter of those flights were to the LA area, including my first nonrev experience going for a day trip to Orange County on July 4, 1997. But I also spent many flights shuttling back and forth between Phoenix and DC. Back then, that meant stopping in the Columbus hub. Really, there was nothing more painful than flying Phoenix to Columbus in the middle seat of the last row of a 737-200, but at least I could almost always stretch out in first class on that last leg to DC.

alaskaIt wasn’t all just shuttling back and forth. I went to Anchorage (at right), Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City, Boston, Dallas, New York, Portland, New Orleans, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico City, and yes, even Yuma. (Again, don’t ask.) That doesn’t count all the flights I took on other airlines while I worked there.

My last flight as an employee happened on September 14, 2002 when I flew back from San Jose to Phoenix to pick up my car and drive it up to school. I was sad to leave that airline, and I will never forget my time there.

I know that the management team and the headquarters building are the same, but it’s not the same airline. That’s inevitable when you merge with someone else that more than doubles your size. Though I have a ton of pictures, I just picked out a handful that I thought I’d share below. I apologize that the quality isn’t very good, but these are print photos that I scanned in.

hpongate

From the parking garage roof at Phoenix Terminal 4. This was one of the first times I saw a lineup of planes all in the new Flintstones colors. There was no rush to paint the planes for several years, and in fact, the Phoenix airport had the old colors on just about everything for a looooong time after the image update occurred.

757landing

From the parking garage roof at Phoenix Terminal 2. A 757 in the old colors landing on PHX’s north runway. My first nonrev trip involved a return from Orange County on a 757 with 14 people onboard (only two were paying customers). That thing took off like a rocket. It wasn’t actually this ship. It was ship 916, the first Arizona flag airplane that was returned to lessors long ago.

oldtail

From the Phoenix maintenance hangar. A320 ship 627 had a little mishap while being pushed back from the gate. You can see the smashed in horizontal stabilizer. They flew the Airbus Beluga in with the replacement part, and we went out to the airport to see that monster land.

hpwnnose

From Phoenix Terminal 4. Short on parts? Just borrow a radome from your neighbor, Southwest. I also remember seeing a United nose on an A320. I believe this was taken when I went on one of my many trips to LA to see UCLA football games with my dad. Most of those trips were easy, though we did have to turnaround in flight one time when there was an engine problem. That was on ship 622, my personal nemesis. I don’t think that plane ever took off on time when I flew it.

Like I said, I could go on and on with stories, but I’ll save that for when I’ve got a beer in front of me. For now, I’ll just say “So long, America West.”

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6 Responses to Adios, America West

  1. Chris says:

    Presumably this will also mean the demise of one of the best callsigns in the business — I always got a kick out of hearing “Cactus 117” on the pilot radio. One less bit of colour in the world :(

  2. Brian says:

    I used to Travel those America West flights in and out of phoenix all the time; living in phoenix finally got to me and I decided to go to Norther Cali (; anyways, if you and I did share a flight before, I thank you!

  3. CF says:

    You’ll be happy to know, Chris, that they’re keeping Cactus as the callsign. Until the pilot workgroups merge, they will continue to use both Cactus and USAir, but once that happens, Cactus will live on. A small but nice tribute to America West.

    And Brian, no need to thank me. I just sat at a desk at headquarters, though I did help out at the airport whenever I could. (That was the best part about a non-unionized customer service group.) It’s the flight attendants and pilots who deserve the thank yous here.

  4. Sinfanti says:

    Yep, I remember the Yukulele music and the candy-cane. I just don’t remember you wearing those shiny silver spacepants. I’m sure KB and I would have given you shit about that.

  5. shellyly says:

    Good Riddins to America West!! I swore off flying with them about 10 years ago, after being laid over an entire day in Columbus with a family group for what should have been a 40 minute flight, because they didn’t want to pay double time on a Sunday for the cleaning staff for the plane.

  6. shelly says:

    Good Riddins to America West!! I swore off flying with them about 10 years ago, after being laid over an entire day in Columbus with a family group for what should have been a 40 minute flight, because they didn’t want to pay double time on a Sunday for the cleaning staff for the plane for the original flight on a Sunday morning.

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