US Airways

As this issue went to press, officials at American Airlines and US Airways were preparing for a big day on Dec. 9, the date when the two airline companies were slated to merge, creating American Airlines Group.

It's a new day for American Airlines, but it also marks the beginning of the end for US Airways, a carrier that traces its roots to All-American Airways, an airmail operator that began service in Pittsburgh in 1939.

Mergers have always been a fact of life in the airline industry. In fact, in the regulated era a merger was the principal route to rapid growth. And US Airways is very much an airline created by mergers -- perhaps more than most, having married, in succession, Lake Central, Mohawk, Piedmont, PSA and, in 2005, America West. Along the way it also acquired the core East Coast assets of what was once the Eastern Air-Shuttle.

So it is fitting that the carrier makes its exit via a merger that it initiated and pursued.

Known as Allegheny at the time of airline deregulation in 1978, the company was one of a gaggle of small, so-called "local service" carriers with names like Air West, Ozark, Frontier, North Central and Southern. It was the largest of the batch, and it outlasted them all.

Second-tier carriers are not expected to be the source of game-changing innovations such as the frequent flyer program, the GDS, the hub or the sleeper seat, but in this respect US Airways was the exception.

As Allegheny Airlines, it is generally credited with the invention of codesharing, a practice that enabled it, in 1967, to subcontract some of its smaller routes to small aircraft operators who donned the livery of "Allegheny Commuter" and who operated under the larger carrier's two-letter code (then AL).

All in all, not a bad run.
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