Since the beginning of airlines in the 1900s, aviation has exploded through the use of scheduled air service to transport people and goods from Point A to B. The industry has certainly had its challenges, but remains a great example of how one invention can influence the world long after its creators are no longer around. Today I’ll list my top picks for airlines when getting around the country, or around the world.
#1: SkyWest Airlines
While you may not see an aircraft painted in SkyWest colors, you probably have been flown by their crews more than you think. SkyWest began in 1972 in St. George, Utah when founder Ralph Atkins bought Dixie Airlines – the operation was a little different than the airline it is today with a Fixed Base Operation (FBO), aircraft maintenance, air ambulance service, air charter service, and flight school. The original fleet consisted of various Piper products including Cherokees and Senecas. Fares between St. George and Salt Lake City were just $28 and in the first year, a whopping 256 people utilized SkyWest.
By the following year, the number of passengers had multiplied exponentially to over 2,000 and several destinations including Moab, UT, and Las Vegas, NV are added. The Piper Senecas were replaced with Piper Navajos – despite these expansions, the company was still quite small which is demonstrated by the fact that Atkins’ wife wrote the customer service manual. By 1974, almost 12,000 passengers are served (an increase of over 650%) and Atkins wondered whether or not to stay in business much of that year. Over the next several years, SkyWest continued its journey upward in addition to facing many of the struggles many other airlines had back in the early days of the industry.
By 1982, code sharing—major carriers accepting regional partners—was born. Code sharing became the bread and butter of SkyWest and by 1989, regional jets were being added to fleet replacing most of the turbo prop aircraft issuing in a new era of travel for this small regional. By 2012, SkyWest had been in the business for 40 years and by 2014, it announced it would transition to an all-jet fleet which included various models of the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) and Embraer Regional Jet (ERJ).
Over 40 years after it was founded, SkyWest partners with several major airlines including: Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. According to www.SkyWest.com, “With a fleet of 351 aircraft, SkyWest’s more than 11,400 aviation professionals operate nearly 1,800 flights each day to 216 destinations throughout North America. SkyWest is known for its industry-leading workforce, exceptional leadership team, and continued solid operational and economic performance.” It boasts hubs all over the country in Chicago/O’Hare, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.
So, while you may never see their signature blue and white CRJs or ERJs, you probably had many of their crews making sure you reached your destination safely and on-time. Just remember, behind every major airline is a great regional airline.
#2: Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines has its roots back when aviation was still new in 1924. The Huff Daland Dusters crop-dusting operation was founded in Macon, GA and became the foundation for building one of the largest major airlines in the world. That crop-dusting operation also became the first commercial agricultural flying company in existence. By 1955, Delta had grown into a major airline and pioneered a route system of travel referred to as “hub and spoke” – hub and spoke worked on the principle of bringing scheduled flights (spokes) into a hub airport where passengers would then connect to other Delta flights. This quickly became the most popular model for many airlines as it greatly increased efficiency, among many other things.
Delta had many firsts for the industry such as serving meals in-flight, offering jet service, non-stop flights from New York to Los Angeles, a cargo express service, and operating three different types of wide-body jets at once. The airline continued to have many firsts, and relative to SkyWest, it was the first airline to use regional jets in North America through the Delta Connection program. Fast forward to the early 2000s and Delta is still a leading major airline accomplishing many “firsts”. Additionally, Delta has been a technological leader in the industry holding patents on many computer programs to manage the day-to-day operations of the airline and improve the overall customer experience. By 2009, it had become the only airline (since PanAm) to serve 6 continents.
A notable day came in 2012, when Delta became the only airline to purchase its own oil refinery – this proved to be a smart move as fuel prices became volatile over the next few years. Once again, Delta has proved to be a leader in the industry with the valuable ability to forecast future market conditions and plan accordingly. Additionally, Delta through SkyTeam® has partnered with many airlines from around the world such as KLM, Virgin America, and many more.
What’s Your Favorite & Why?
Do you have a favorite airline that you don’t even think twice about booking through? What is it and why is it your favorite? Leave a comment about your favorites and your most memorable destination with that airline.