TWA Starts to Change Its Name

Monday, December 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ TWA started disappearing on Sunday, as the airline's assets began changing to the American Airlines brand.

Flight numbers now come with the prefix ``AA'' rather than ``TW.'' Airline executives and employees retired the ``TW'' Saturday with a commemorative flight from Kansas City, home of the airline's main maintenance hub, to the airline's main hub in St. Louis. The commemorative flight, 220, was commanded by Capt. Bill Compton, TWA's last president, who started with the airline in 1968 as a flight engineer.

TWA's final scheduled flight, 2, arrived in St. Louis from Honolulu about 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

Tickets purchased for travel after Sunday that say TWA are still valid; passengers will just be traveling on American flights.

Passengers will line up at American ticket counters and gates, rather than those that continued to display the TWA brand following the airline's bankruptcy auction.

The planes still show off the TWA name _ for now. ``We'll see in the next six months the TWA planes being repainted,'' said Ken Gilbert, the managing director of American's integration team. ``That's one thing that's left to be done.''

Officially, Trans World Airlines has been known for several months as ``TWA Airlines LLC,'' one of many changes brought on by the carrier's third and final bankruptcy filing in January.

That filing, which capped more than a decade without profit, was the precursor to the buyout of assets by AMR Corp., parent of Texas-based American Airlines. TWA Airlines became a subsidiary of American.

Pilots flying what used to be TWA planes are learning American's computer system.

``There are quite a few changes that we'll have to deal with,'' said Jeff Darnell, a spokesman for TWA's pilots union. ``Mostly, it is how we get out flight plans and some operational specifics. But it's nothing drastic.''

Aviators, TWA's frequent flyer program, closed at midnight Friday. Travelers have a year to transfer their miles to American's AAdvantage program, said spokeswoman Julia Bishop-Cross.

TWA descended from Western Air Express, which began flying July 13, 1925, and later became Transcontinental and Western Air _ the original source of the TWA acronym. In 1950, eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, then an owner of the airline, kept the acronym but changed the name to Trans World Airlines.

It was the nation's first airline to offer coast-to-coast service, a combination of air and rail, starting July 7, 1929. It also flew the nation's first all jet-powered fleet, was the first to use the Boeing 747 on a domestic route, and was the first to offer nonsmoking sections on all its aircraft.

Gilbert said TWA will continue to exist legally for a few more years as its airliners are brought one by one into the American maintenance plan.

``That's a pretty complicated process, and it requires doing it aircraft by aircraft, engine by engine, and in some cases, part by part to make sure the maintenance plan and record of wear and tear transfers correctly,'' he said.

Some TWA employees are already getting paychecks from American, while others will move over in January, when all will start receiving pay and benefits on American's scale. Flight crews will move over at the same pace as the planes.

Outside of American's immediate purview, but still unresolved, are integration agreements between the two unions that represent TWA employees and their counterpart unions at American.

``Even though the name TWA will be taken down from the livery, the represented employees of TWA have yet to reach agreement for fair and equitable integration of employees, something that was promised to employees and the Congress,'' Darnell said.