|Airline:||Pacific Southwest Airlines|
|Ceased:||1988 (integrated into USAir)|
|Headquarters:||San Diego, California|
|Fleet Size:||75 (At time of Shutdown)|
|Company Slogan:||Catch our Smile|
|Parent:||PSA Inc. (later USAir Inc.)|
Pacific Southwest Airlines was a United States airline headquartered in San Diego, California that operated from 1949 to 1988. It was one of the first large discount airlines in the United States and is considered a precursor to Southwest Airlines. PSA was known by its slogan "The World's Friendliest Airline" and for the iconic smile painted on the nose of its airplanes.
Kenny Friedkin founded the airline in 1949 with a $1,000-a-month leased Douglas DC-3. That aircraft inaugurated a weekly round trip from San Diego to Oakland via Burbank. Reservations were initially taken from a World War II surplus latrine refitted as a ticket office. In 1951, PSA crossed the San Francisco Bay and began flying to San Francisco. In 1955, PSA purchased two Douglas DC-4 aircraft from Capital Airlines and painted boxes around the windows to make the planes resemble the more advanced Douglas DC-6.
During the 1960s, PSA operated Lockheed L-188 Electra aircraft on the San Diego-San Francisco route: these were replaced with Boeing 727-214 and Boeing 737-214s by the end of the decade. In the mid-1970s, PSA briefly operated Lockheed L-1011 aircraft before deeming them unprofitable and selling them. The L-1011-1 aircraft produced for PSA were unique in having lower deck seating. PSA expanded its service to Sacramento, San Jose, Long Beach, and Ontario, California during this period, and by 1980 was operating a hub at Los Angeles International Airport.
After airline deregulation, California's major intrastate airlines (PSA, Air California (later rebranded AirCal), Western Airlines and United Airlines) became embroiled in intense airfare wars. PSA attempted to extend its route network beyond California with flights to Reno, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tucson, and Albuquerque. The airline also introduced automated ticketing and check-in machines at several major airports, and briefly operated flights to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. When PSA's plan to buy out the assets of Dallas-Ft. Worth-based Braniff International Airways fell flat, the airline expanded its route network north to Washington, Oregon and Idaho. PSA used a new fleet of BAe 146 regional jets to serve smaller airports on the West Coast, such as Eureka, California and Concord, California. PSA held a contest, publicized in full-page newspaper ads, to name the fleet. The winning entry was Smiliner.
In 1986, Western and AirCal were purchased by out-of-state airlines (Delta Air Lines and American Airlines respectively). Some believe USAir was actually pursuing AirCal because of fleet commonality - (Boeing 737-300s) - but that American Airlines spoiled the deal and PSA was its second choice. Upon hearing that USAir was interested in AirCal, American Airlines aggressively courted the AirCal Board of Directors. It made more sense for American Airlines to purchase PSA due to fleet commonality, but American Airlines was determined not to concede market share. Therefore, many believe the American/AirCal deal was essentially an attempt to impede USAir's expansion. However, this plan did not work.
An hour after the AirCal deal was announced, PSA agreed to merge with USAir, which was completed in 1987. PSA's last flight took place on April 8, 1988. The PSA route network slowly disintegrated within USAir and was completely gone by 1994: most of the former airline's assets were scrapped or moved to USAir's hubs on the East Coast. PSA's operations base at San Diego International Airport was gutted and now serves as that airport's commuter terminal. PSA had planned from the start to become a nationwide carrier, but this never came to fruitition. By the time of the merger, PSA's route system covered only the western United States, extending only as far east as Colorado and New Mexico. Southwest Airlines has since duplicated many of PSA's former San Diego routes.
In the San Diego Aerospace Museum, there is a display showcasing PSA, the city's hometown airline.
Following the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West, a US Airways Airbus A319 was repainted in PSA's livery as one of four heritage aircraft commemorating the airlines that merged to form the present-day US Airways. The aircraft was dedicated at San Diego International Airport's commuter terminal (PSA's former operations base) on March 30, 2006, and flew similar flight patterns to the ones actually operated by PSA, as another commemorative bonus.
At the time, PSA was known for its sense of humor. Founder Ken Friedkin wore Hawaiian shirts and encouraged his pilots and stewardesses to joke around with passengers. Its slogan was "The World's Friendliest Airline," and its recognizable trademark was a smile painted on the nose of each plane and an accompanying ad campaign declaring "Catch Our Smile." Because of the major San Diego flight schedule and because of the discount fares, military personnel nicknamed PSA the "Poor Sailor's Airline." After PSA was bought by USAir, ex-PSA mechanics would occasionally paint smiles on USAir planes as a joke.
During the sixties, PSA was also known for the brightly-colored flight attendant uniforms that included miniskirts. In the early seventies, the fashion changed to hotpants. One PSA flight attendant, Marilyn Tritt, wrote a book about her tenure at the company titled, Long Legs and Short Nights (ISBN 0-9649577-0-1).
Ken Friedkin's son Tom was a PSA pilot in 1962 when the elder Friedkin died abruptly of a stroke. He was 47 years old. A year later, Tom Friedkin's mother died, making him the largest shareholder of PSA. Tom had a seat on the Board of Directors, but continued working as a full-time pilot for the airline.
Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher studied PSA extensively and used many of the airline's ideas to form the corporate culture at Southwest, and even on early flights used the same "Long Legs And Short Nights" theme for stewardesses on board typical Southwest Airlines flights.
There have been several attempted hijackings which resulted in no injuries and the surrender of the often lone hijacker. These incidents are not included. The following are notable hijackings because of fatalities or success in forcing the aircraft to fly to another country
PSA fleet details at the time of its merger shutdown into US Airways:
Historic PSA Fleet Details:
|Douglas DC-3/C-47 Skytrain||9|
|Douglas DC-4/C-54 Skymaster||4|
|Lockheed L-188 Electra||9|
|Lockheed L-1011-1 TriStar||5|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-81||21|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-82||17|