MIAMI — American Airlines branded its regional operations under the American Eagle name over 30 years ago. Moreover, between 1998 and 2014, American Eagle operated as an airline with the call sign “Eagle Flight”. Some contract carriers came and went, while others were absorbed by the parent company AMR Corporation, now part of the American Airlines Group as a result of the merger between American and US Airways. On this Flashback Friday, we look back at the American Eagle brand since it was first introduced in late 1984.
After the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, mainline carriers began to outsource small market flights to regional carriers. American Airlines was no exception. Furthermore, American’s parent company AMR Corporation would eventually take things a step further by acquiring some of these regional carriers.
The first flight with the American Eagle brand took place on November 1, 1984 from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). DFW-based Metroflight Airlines, a subsidiary of Metro Airlines, operated the flight using a Convair 580 turboprop. The carrier’s fleet of 14 Convair 580s wore the American Eagle brand. By 1985, AMR assumed full ownership of Metroflight, in the aftermath of the Metro Airlines bankruptcy, and the airline replaced its Convairs with Saab 340s.
Command Airways, based in Poughkeepsie, New York, also began wearing American Eagle colors in 1984. Its aircraft consisted of Beech 99s, DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otters, Shorts 330s and 360s. ATR 42s joined the fleet in 1986. AMR bought Command Airways and renamed it Flagship Airlines in 1988.
Another regional airline that joined the American Eagle network was Simmons Airlines on October 1, 1985 out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD). This operation consisted of Shorts 360s and NAMC YS-11s airplanes and later evolved into a fleet of larger ATR 42/72 turboprops. AMR acquired Simmons on August 1, 1987.
San Luis Obispo Regional Airport-based Wings West Airlines flew West Coast operations for American Eagle starting in 1986. The airline operated BAe Jetstreams, Beechcraft C99s, Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners, and Saab 340s under the American Eagle brand. AMR acquired Wings West, and along with Flagship and Simmons, the company formed American Eagle Airlines as a wholly-owned subsidiary on May 15, 1998. That same month, American Eagle began its first-ever jet service with the Embraer ERJ-145 regional jet.
The final piece of the historical American Eagle-branded operation was San Juan, Puerto Rico-based Executive Airlines. It joined the American Eagle system on September 15, 1986 and became a full AMR subsidiary on December 7, 1989. After the creation of American Eagle Airlines, Executive Airlines continued to operate separately with the American Eagle branding. The airline operated CASA 212s and Shorts 360s and eventually became an all ATR 72 operator.
In 2007, AMR began efforts to shed American Eagle Airlines. However, the financial crisis of 2008 put plans to spin off American Eagle on hold. As the crisis eased, AMR began to look for buyers again, but the idea once again stalled when AMR filed for bankruptcy in November 2011.
With the merger of AMR and US Airways Group on December 9, 2013, the name of the new company became American Airlines Group. Instead of selling American Eagle Airlines, the management decided to retain it, and on January 14, 2014, the airline adopted the name Envoy Air. However, this would not mean the end of the American Eagle brand.
Envoy got off to a rough start with pilots not ratifying a company offer that included flying new Embraer E-175s in return for cost concessions from employees. The management responded by downsizing Envoy and contracting other carriers to fly under the American Eagle brand, but in December 2014, both parties reached a new agreement that will incorporate the E-175s into the fleet.
Today, Envoy Air, along with Compass Airlines, ExpressJet, Mesa Airlines, PSA Airlines, Republic Airlines, and SkyWest Airlines comprise the American Eagle Network. Envoy’s fleet currently consists of 47 Bombardier CRJ-700s, 36 Embraer ERJ-140s and 118 ERJ-145s, and there are 40 orders and 90 options for E-175s. In addition, all CRJ-700s are moving to PSA.
Under the American Eagle brand, this is the current makeup of the other contract carriers: Compass Airlines will operate 20 E-175s; ExpressJet flies 11 CRJ-200s and will receive 15 ERJ 145s from Envoy; Mesa Airlines operates 16 CRJ-900s; PSA Airlines operates 16 CRJ-900s and will start to receive Envoy’s 47 CRJ-700s in June; Republic Airlines operates 40 Embraer 175s; and SkyWest Airlines flies 12 CRJ-200s. Furthermore, with the rebranding of US Airways Express into American Eagle, Air Wisconsin and Piedmont Airlines, as well as other aircraft in the Mesa, Republic, PSA, and SkyWest fleets, are starting to wear the latter’s livery.
By the conclusion of the American and US Airways merger at the end of 2015, the American Eagle Brand will have hubs at these airports: Charlotte Douglas; Chicago-ORD; DFW; Los Angeles; Miami; New York JFK and LaGuardia; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Washington-Reagan.