Now Boarding: Flight 5: Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), and a little about deregulation
Let’s try this again, even though I’m still not quite sure how to put it to words.
Another mini-obsession of mine involves defunct airlines, especially from the 1980’s. If you asked why I’d probably give a variety of reasons, including the cheesy commercials, the fact that you could run up to the gate at the last second and actually get on the plane (and don’t even mention the free food once you boarded)… and don’t even get me started on the uniforms. Seriously. Why the defunct ones, I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with my other non-airline interests in abandoned buildings and malls, that whole “hey, that used to be there” thing.
Anyways…. Once upon a time in California, there was pretty much one airline that got you around the southwest US often and for cheap. That airline was Pacific Southwest Airlines, otherwise known as PSA, and that’s who I’m talking about today.
Note: PSA has absolutely no relation to Southwest Airlines. Although that would be pretty cool. :)
PSA started out in 1949 with one plane, headquartered and flying out of SAN with runs to OAK via BUR once a week. To make things short and sweet (thanks, Wikipedia), by 1980 they had a hub at LAX and service had expanded to SMF, SJC, LGB, and ONT. Now go learn your airport codes. :)
Then deregulation happened. From what I remember out of the paper I had to write, basically what that means is in the past airfares were controlled by the government, as were routes. There was actually an agency that an airline had to go through to get a new route approved, which was lengthy and expensive as heck. This would probably explain why TWA and Pan Am were so popular, because they had the bucks and the connections to get it done. (If I’m wrong, please correct me).
If I stray off topic one more time, I’m gonna cry. It took a few years; basically after deregulation in 1978, after much court fighting and such, eventually airlines were allowed to control their own fares and routes. This created a huge wave of what I like to call flash-in-the pan airlines, who tried to profit from the new freedom and just didn’t make it. The other problem, which I set out to talk about 5 minutes ago, was a LOT of fare wars. Of course PSA got caught up in this.
PSA continued to expand their route network, and meanwhile due to the fare wars the more powerful airlines were starting to gobble up the others. A lot of the flash-in-the-pan airlines, like I said before, just couldn’t handle the fare competition and either died flat out or were acquired by legacy carriers like Delta and American. However, PSA managed to hang on for a few more years while former California competitors Western and AirCal were merged with… hey, you guessed it, Delta and American.
Eventually in 1988 PSA finally gave up to a “hostile takeover” by my least favorite airline on the planet, USAir. I’m not going to get into the details because a) it’s already on other sites and b) you really don’t want to hear me complain for pages. The last actual PSA flight was April 8, 1988, IIRC between LAS and SAN.
US slowly ditched or integrated with PSA’s route network and by 1994 it was completely gone. There was, however, some good out of this: pretty much every gate and route that PSA left behind on the West Coast, Southwest Airlines picked up and ran with. So really I should be grateful that PSA got eaten, because otherwise it would have been really hard for Southwest to have gotten into the California market.
….Am I even making any sense? Please tell me I am.
I really just like PSA because they shared a lot of the same qualities as Southwest: low fares, awesome customer service, convenient flights, a sense of humor that involved hiding flight attendants in overhead bins, you know. And when I was living in Los Angeles, a lot of people reminisced about PSA like it was the best thing since sliced bread. Oh, and if anyone’s ever seen the movie Zodiac, I actually screamed in the theater at that part where they fly PSA back up to the Bay Area.
Yeah. I think that’s about it. If I’ve confused the heck out of you, here’s some links about PSA to help you out.