Merger Mania, a History of Airline Mergers in the U.S

Since the airline industry deregulation act of 1978, airlines mergers have erupted among the industry. They usually happen when one airline begins to suffer financial problems. A merger is a way for an airline to sustain some sort of survival.


The history of mergers and acquisitions has produced good, bad and ugly results as well as small, fairly unnoticed mergers to mergers of massive proportions. However, many mergers did happen prior to the airline deregulation act and some of the most popular U.S airlines today are results of numerous mergers. We wanted to explore the history of mergers in the U.S and the impact they had, if any. There are quite a few.

1930 – Western Air Express purchased Standard Airlines

1930 – Western Air Express merged with Transcontinental Air Transport to form TWA

1941 – Western Air Express changed their name to Western Airlines

1953 – Delta Airlines merged with Chicago and Southern Airlines

1961 – United Airlines merged with Capital Airlines becoming the largest airline merger in history

1967 – Western Airlines acquired Pacific Northern Airlines

1967 – Frontier Airlines merged with Central Airlines

1968 – Alaska Airlines merges with Cordova Airlines

1968 – Allegheny Airlines acquired Lake Central Airlines

1968 – Alaska Airlines merged with Alaska Coastal Airlines

1968 – Pacific Airlines, Bonanaza Airlines and West Coast Airlines combine to form Air West

1971 – American Airlines purchased Trans Caribbean Airways

1972 – Allegheny Airlines merges with Mohawk Airlines to form US Air

1972 – Delta Airlines merged with Northeast Airlines

1978 – The airline deregulation act removed government control over fares, routes and marker entry of new airlines.

1979 –North Central Airlines combines with Southern Airways and Hughs Airwest to form Republic Airlines

1980- Pan Am purchased National Airlines

1985 – People Express purchased Frontier Airlines

1985 – Southwest Airlines acquired Muse Airlines

1986 – Northwest Airlines merges with Republic Airlines

1986 – Delta Airlines purchased Western Air and AirCal

1986 – TWA purchases Ozark Airlines

1987 – Continental Airlines purchased People Express and combines with New York Air

1987 – US Air merged with Pacific Southwest Airlines

1987 – Alaska Airlines merged with Jet America

1989 – US Air purchased Piedmont Airlines

1993 – Southwest Airlines purchases Morris Air

1997 – ValueJet purchased Air Tran to become Air Tran

1999 – American Airlines purchased Reno Air

2001 – American Airlines merges with TWA becoming the world’s largest airline

2005 – America West Airlines merges with US Airways

2008 – Southwest Airlines purhcases ATA Airlines

2009 – Delta Airlines Merges with Northwest Airlines becoming the world’s largest airline

2009 – Republic Airways purchased Midwest Airlines

2009 – Republic Airways purchased Frontier Airlines

2010 – United Airlines merges with Continental Airlines becoming the world’s largest airline

2011 – Southwest Airlines purchased Air Tran

2013 – American Airlines will merge with US Airways becoming the largest airline in the world to date


Less than five short years ago, there were eight legacy airlines which consisted of, American Airlines, U.S Airways, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Continental Airlines. Today, with the consolidation of the current mergers and the most recent American and U.S Airways merger, only five will exist, creating less competition between legacies. However, more routes have slightly opened up, both domestically and internationally along with the sustained growth of low cost airlines such as Southwest, Spirit and JetBlue.


What mergers have taught us is how incredibly unstable the airline industry can get and the fierce nature of competition among carriers. Like most competing businesses, it’s a dog eat dog world. We live in a day where loyalty to one airline comes down to how much we ultimately decide to pay for a ticket. Travel expenses are something many of us take with a grain of salt. We’ve become a frugal society, hell bent on shopping around for the cheapest deal and quality is no longer an important component on our decision making. Our standards have diminished but for some reason our expectations have increased. What it boils down to is that we will all be paying more for the same product.  Try not to be disappointed.