TWA Gone, But Not Forgotten

By | September 21, 2009
TWA SuperJets!
Image by Telstar Logistics via Flickr

Trans World Airlines was one of the great U.S. legacy airlines. In fact, until the 1970s, it and Pan Am(also now defunct), were the only U.S. airlines to serve Europe.

TWA maintained its original base at Kansas City, but moved its domestic hub to St. Louis and its international hub to New York(where its iconic terminal at JFK still remains as a landmark). In 1988, at its height, it carried 50% of all transatlantic passengers. An intra-Europe operation would shuttle TWA passengers to its European gateways at London and Paris, and a domestic operation that fed the international flights.

Ten years later, it had reorganized with an emphasis on domestic operations, and started fleet renewal plans. But its financial problems never went away. In April of 2001, American Airlines acquired the airline’s assets, bookings ended in November, and the last flight operated on December 1st, 2001.

For their flight attendants, however, the airline still lives, which prompted our reminiscence. reports that even in the face of the loss of the St. Louis hub that was one of their legacies, these airline employees have stuck together and continue to fight for the injustice done them when American Airlines bought out TWA.

American Airlines put the flight attendants at the bottom of their seniority list. And in hard times, it makes them some of the first to be furloughed after decades-long aviation careers. But they don’t blame American, they blame the union, which negotiated the seniority integration agreement, for selling them out.

Ten years ago, TWA had 4,400 flight attendants. The number of former TWA Flight Attendants at American today…258. As of October, with the loss of the St. Louis hub…25. The rest will be grounded, a sad footnote to the end of an airline.