October 2, 2022
3/1/1986: Trans World Airlines, Ozark Announce Merger

3/1/1986: Trans World Airlines, Ozark Announce Merger

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Ozark Airlines (OZ) announced in 1986 that they would merge.

TWA Chairman Carl Icahn announced the deal, which would see TW purchase OZ in a US$224m deal. After the merger, the two carriers would hold approximately 70% of the passenger traffic at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL). 

Douglas DC-9-30 N936L joined OZ from Balair (4T) in January 1985. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

“Two Losers”

A merger had initially been discussed in May 1985 when TW had offered to buy OZ for $21 a share. This deal saw that figure drop two $19 per share. Both carriers had been suffering losses, and speaking at the time of the merger, Icahn said that by combining “two losers, we hope to create one profitable carrier. My goal has always been to acquire Ozark and now I have achieved it.”

Ozark can trace its history back to September 1950, when it started operations with a fleet of three Douglas DC-3s. A merger with Central Airlines, which would have created one of the largest regional carriers in the US, fell through in November 1966. 

But the airline continued to expand, joining the jet age in July 1966 when the first of its Douglas DC-9-10s arrived. It soon added the larger -30 and -40 series. Two Boeing 727-200s were also ordered but never delivered. Four McDonnell Douglas MD-82s joined the fleet in 1984. 

The Douglas DC-3 was subsequently replaced by a fleet of Fairchild F-27s. (Photo: D. Miller from IL. USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Consigned to the History Books

In 1985, OZ carried 55 million passengers, serving 65 cities across 25 states. It had a fleet of 50 aircraft, comprising McDonnell Douglas DC-9-10/30/40s and MD-82s. 

The merger was agreed upon by shareholders from both airlines by late summer. It made TW the sixth largest carrier in the US overnight. Despite some opposition regarding the monopoly the combined carriers would hold at STL, approval was granted by the US Department of Transport (DoT) on September 12, 1986. The Ozark name subsequently disappeared from the skies on October 27, 1986.

 Featured image: All of Ozark’s fleet was transferred over to TWA and many went on to fly with American Airlines after the latter two’s merger. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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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