On Friday night US Airways flew its final flight, a red-eye from San Francisco to Philadelphia. We’ll see no more references to US Airways on the departure or arrival boards at airports, because the airline is now a fully integrated part of American Airlines. It will take a while, however, before all of the planes with the US Airways logo are repainted with American’s design.
Longtime travelers could be forgiven feeling a certain wistfulness at the news. Not because US Airways was a great, beloved airline — it wasn’t — but because the ongoing trend of airline consolidation has eliminated another airline name that was easy to mock when you were waiting at a terminal for a long-delayed flight. Anybody who flew US Airways much inevitably referred to it as “Useless Airways.” And the greybeards among us remember that US Airways was formerly known as USAir, which was the successor to Allegheny Airlines, which had the best mockname of all: Agony Airlines.
Lots of big-name airlines have bitten the dust over the past few decades — Pan Am, TWA, Northwest, Eastern (known, of course, as Leastern) — and countless small and regional carriers and attempted start-ups. The remaining airlines may still cancel flights for inexplicable and therefore suspicious reasons (i.e., they discover there aren’t enough passengers to make the flight profitable, so why not make those unlucky passengers take a later flight to fill it up and invent a reason for the cancellation) and irritate passengers, but their names seemingly have been carefully calculated to frustrate mocknaming. If you’re a patriotic citizen, you feel guilty even attempting to mockname American Airlines. And what do you do with the remaining carriers? Delta = Schmelta? United = Screwnited? JetBlue = JetBlow? They seem pretty forced. And no one even suggests mocknames for Southwest, because its planes always seem to fly and therefore it’s a favorite for weary travelers who just want to get home.
I guess I’ll miss Useless Airways after all.