9/29/1972: Air Florida Commences Operations

9/29/1972: Air Florida Commences Operations

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Miami-based Air Florida (QH) commenced revenue operations in 1972 using a number of second-hand Lockheed Electras.

Businessman Eli Timoner had seen the rise of Pacific Southwest Airlines (PS) in California and wanted to emulate its success with his new intrastate airline.

With twice-daily flights between Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO), and St. Petersburg (PIE), the airline quickly carved out a niche for itself.

An Air Florida Lockheed L-188 Electra lands at Miami International Airport in 1976. When Ed Acker joined the airline in 1975, he changed the carrier’s color scheme from orange and blue to blue and green. He also introduced orange juice with a champagne called “Sunshine Sparklers” on all flights. Photo: RuthAS – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Change at the Top

Former Braniff (BN) CEO Ed Acker purchased a controlling interest in the airline in 1975 and began to expand its operation. Acker then added a number of second-hand Douglas DC-9-10s and Boeing 737-100s and -200s to the fleet. The Airline Deregulation Act in 1978 also allowed QH to rapidly expand its network outside of Florida.

This included a new link from MIA to London (LGW) to compete with Pan Am (PA). Five McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s were acquired to operate the route. Sheepskin adorned the first-class seats, and a free limo service was offered in London to entice passengers away from the majors.

The DC-10 allowed QH to expand across the Atlantic. The airline served Amsterdam, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Paris, Shannon, and Zurich. Photo: By Eduard Marmet – http://www.airliners.net/photo/Air-Florida-(Seaboard/McDonnell-Douglas-DC-10-30CF/0223665/L/, CC BY-SA 3.0

Financial Struggles

By 1981, QH was struggling financially. Rapid expansion subsequently led to spiraling debts. Acker then left QH to join rival PA and set about reinvigorating the airline by putting it into direct competition with his old airline on many routes.

The crash of Flight 90 into the icy Potomac River on January 13, 1982, was the final nail in the coffin for QH. Overnight, around 100,000 passengers canceled their reservations. The airline limped on until July 3, 1984, when the company finally declared bankruptcy.

Featured image: Air Florida operated both the -100 and -200 series of the Boeing 737. N54AF joined the fleet in January 1980. Photo: Peter Duijnmayer (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2 ), via Wikimedia Commons)

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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