Trans World Airlines

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Trans World Airlines, commonly known as TWA, was an American airline which was acquired by American Airlines in April 2001. For many years it was headquartered at the Kansas City Downtown Airport. At the time of its demise, it was headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri and used the airport nearby, Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport, as its major hub.

Code Data

  • IATA Code: TW
  • ICAO Code: TWA
  • Callsign: TWA

Early history

The airline was founded on July 13, 1925 as Western Air Express. In 1930 it merged with Transcontinental Air Transport to become Transcontinental and Western Air (T&WA).

Howard Hughes purchased T&WA in 1939, and the airline expanded dramatically under the leadership of Hughes and CEO Jack Frye. After breaking Pan American World Airways legal designation as the United States' sole international carrier, TWA began transatlantic service in 1946 using new Lockheed Constellation aircraft. Until the early 1970s, TWA and Pan Am were the only U.S. airlines serving Europe.

In 1950, the airline changed its name to Trans World Airlines. It established routes from Europe to Asia during the 1950s and 1960s, flying its aircraft as far east as Hong Kong. In the Transpacific Route Case of 1969, TWA was given authority to extend its route network across the Pacific Ocean as well. TWA was also a major helper in the foundation of Saudi Arabian Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines.

TWA  tail section
TWA Boeing 707 tail section

Hughes' growing eccentricities caused TWA to sue for his removal as chairman in 1961. Under new corporate management, the TWA Corporation expanded to purchase the overseas operations of Hilton Hotels. By 1969, TWA's transatlantic operation was larger than Pan Am's.

TWA's landmark Terminal 5 at New York City's JFK Airport, designed by Eero Saarinen, is one of the world's most famous buildings: a lyrical expression of the unified sculptural forms that could be created in reinforced concrete, before the age of computers.

Financial difficulties

Airline deregulation hit TWA hard. The holding company, Trans World Corporation, spun off the airline. The airline briefly considered selling itself to corporate raider Frank Lorenzo in the 1980s, but ended up selling to Carl Icahn in 1985. Later, in 1992, the airline filed for bankruptcy.

On July 17, 1996 TWA Flight 800 exploded over the Atlantic Ocean near Long Island, killing all aboard. The cause is debated, but the media focused heavily on the fact that TWA's airline fleet was among the oldest in service.

By 1998, TWA reorganized as a primarily domestic carrier, with routes centered around hubs at St. Louis and New York. Partly in response to TWA Flight 800 and the age of its fleet, TWA announced a major fleet renewal, ordering 125 new aircraft.

However, financial problems began to resurface shortly afterward, and TWA was acquired by American Airlines in April of 2001 after declaring bankruptcy for a third time. Trans World Airlines flew its last flight on December 1, 2001. The ceremonial last flight was Flight 220 from Kansas City, Missouri to St. Louis, Missouri with CEO Captain William Compton at the controls. However, the final flight before TWA officially became part of American Airlines was completed between St. Louis, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada, also on December 1st, 2001. At 10:00 PM CST on December 1st, 2001, employees began removing all TWA signs and placards from airports around the country, replacing them with American Airlines signs. At midnight, all TWA flights officially became listed as American Airlines flights. Some aircraft carried hybrid American/TWA livery during the transition, with American's tricolor stripe on the fuselage and TWA's name on the tail.

TWA's St. Louis hub suffered after the merger from its proximity to American's much larger hub at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. As a result, American replaced TWA's St. Louis mainline hub with regional jet service (going from over 800 operations a day to less than 100) and downsized TWA's maintenance base in Kansas City. Furloughs and layoffs have left less than 1,500 of 24,000 TWA employees with American Airlines jobs. In retrospect, although American acquired over 200 aircraft from TWA (DC9s, MD80s, 757s and 767s), many analysts believe the TWA assets were not worth the additional debt inherited from TWA.

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fr:Trans World Airlines ja:トランス・ワールド航空


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