MIAMI – Today in Aviation, US regional carrier Atlantic Coast Airlines (DH) announces its rebranding as a low-cost carrier Independence Air (DH) 2003.

Atlantic Coast commenced flights on December 15, 1989. It began life as a United Airlines (UA) ‘Express’ affiliate, operating flights from Chicago (ORD) and Washington (IAD). In 1999, feeder services also began for Delta Airlines (DL) under the ‘Delta Connection’ banner.

In 2002 UA entered bankruptcy protection and in an attempt to cut costs, began to renegotiate contracts with its regional partners. The new offer did not suit Atlantic Coast as management believed it would limit its future growth. Thus the decision was made to reposition itself as a low-cost carrier.

Operations commenced with the Embraer Brasilia EMB-120. (Photo: JetPix (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons)

Gaining Independence

Operations as Independence Air commenced on June 16, 2004. In its first year, the airline brought nearly one million extra passengers to IAD. It also helped lower fares at the hub, which at the time were some of the highest in the country, as it went head-to-head with its former partner UA.

Initially, the carrier utilized its Canadair CRJ200 jets. These, however, were poorly suited to the new business model and so in September 2004, the larger Airbus A319 was introduced. The poor fleet mix would go on to become one of the reasons the airline entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2005.

United was also aggressively protecting its IAD hub. It offered various promotions on its MileagePlus program as well as matching DH’s low-fares. Independence could not compete and was declared bankrupt on January 5, 2006, after carrying 8 million passengers.

The 50-seat CRJ200 with its high per-passenger costs was a poor fit with the airline’s new low-cost strategy. (Photo: Anthony92931, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Featured image: The A319 allowed DH to expand its network and open up new markets to Florida as well as transcontinental routes. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)