By Bob Shane
On May 19, America West Airlines, based in Tempe, Ariz., announced its proposed merger with US Airways. A little more than three months later, on August 23, both carriers jointly unveiled the aircraft livery that would be the new look for the merged airline.
Starting at US Airways’ Philadelphia hub, the red, white and blue A-320 Airbus whistle-stopped its way across America, stopping at special events in Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Las Vegas and Phoenix. It covered 2,800 miles, touching down in Arizona, its last stop, at 6:15 p.m.
There, more than 500 people, mostly America West employees, cheered as the shiny Airbus received a water cannon salute from the City of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Fire Department. On board were America West CEO Doug Parker and US Airways CEO Bruce Lakefield. The flight served as a vehicle to introduce the US Airways employees to their soon to be new boss (Parker).
It also gave Parker an opportunity to work his magic to achieve employee support for the merger, which in the long run would make for a smoother integration of the two airlines. For US Airways, the new livery is a symbol signifying a new beginning for the carrier, hopefully positioning it on a course leading to a brighter future. The merger will create the nation’s fifth largest domestic airline (based on available seat miles). Parker is betting that the new carrier will be one of the most stable airlines in the industry with far greater opportunities than either airline would be able to achieve on its own.
Both CEO’s deplaned to a warm and lively reception at America West’s maintenance facility. The mayor of Phoenix and the mayor of Tempe welcomed them. Everyone present seemed to sense that they were part of something historically significant as a barrage of digital cameras clicked away, recording the event for posterity. There was food and entertainment, as the recorded background sounds of “Come Fly with Me” by Frank Sinatra filled the air, setting the stage for some rousing VIP speechmaking.
Blending the Elements
The new livery, which adorned the A-320 Airbus, was created in-house rather than through the use of high-priced consultants. It’s a fusion of both airlines’ existing designs, featuring a new rendition of the US Airways stylized American flag and the waving fuselage stripes, which characterize current America West aircraft. Displayed on the right side of the main entry door is a new heritage logo depicting the individual logos of the main historic airlines—Allegheny Airlines, America West Airlines, Pacific Southwest Airlines and Piedmont Airlines—all of which, over the years have combined to form the new US Airways.
In addition to the heritage logo, the company plans to paint one of its aircraft in each of four original classic airline liveries, as a permanent tribute to its history. Management’s emphasis on the heritage of the new US Airways appeared to strike a positive chord with all those present at the celebration. Traveling on the Airbus with Parker and Lakefield were former employees of each of the historic airlines. Several were wearing “retro” uniforms from Allegheny, Piedmont and PSA. They seemed to be the hit of the tour.
“Today we celebrate our individual pasts while looking towards a collective, bright future,” Parker said. “While we recognize much work remains, we are making remarkable progress in creating a well funded, national low-cost carrier. Today’s new look visually represents US Airways’ fresh new start. The industry expertise of employees from the great airlines of our past is what ultimately will make the new US Airways a success as we move forward together toward a brighter future.”
Lakefield commented, “We’re excited to position the new US Airways in a way that pays tribute to all of the great airlines and the employees who will comprise the merged airline. The pride and dedication of our employees has brought us this far, and those same qualities will enable us to become a stronger and more competitive airline.”
The merger plan, under the US Airways brand, calls for court approval and deal closure by September 30. The integration of the two carriers is projected to start in the October-December timeframe, with full integration being accomplished in 2006.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, America West and US Airways announced that the company’s New York Stock Exchange symbol will be LCC. It was selected as a tribute to the merged company’s status as the world’s largest “low-cost carrier.”
It would appear that the tour of America West and US Airways hub-stations was a success. A tremendous amount of goodwill seemed to be created, which should help to facilitate the future integration of both carriers.