History Of National Airlines





History Of National Airlines


National Airlines began in 1934 as an airmail carrier, flying mail between St. Petersburg and Daytona Beach. The founder, G.T. Baker operated two Ryan aircraft. In the mid 30's, National Airlines began expanding its mail route. Entering World War II, National Airlines contracted by the Air Transport Command began providing pilot training and transporting aircraft and military troops.

This provided revenue that the airline needed to remain viable. At that time Americans were not traveling due to the war. In 1944, National Airlines was awarded passenger routes between New York and Florida operating DC-4's. By 1946, National Airlines was awarded routes from Miami to Havana, Cuba and Miami, Tampa to New Orleans. National continued to grow by the 1950's it was providing night and excursion flights at cheap rates.  

By the 1970's, National installed a multi million dollar computer reservation system. This allowed National the competitive edge. Passengers could book their flights over the telephone with ease. National also began providing non-stop service from Miami to London.

Throughout the 70's, National expanded its passenger routes. It began to service Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. National Was also breaking into the Caribbean markets with flights to San Juan. During the late 70's and 80's it was a very turbulent time for the survivability of airlines. Airlines were swallowing other airlines, take over and merges were occurring daily. In 1980, Pan Am took control of National Airlines through the purchasing of stocks. This was a take over that was not foreseen and it was considered to be a hostile one.

During its history, National was known by advertising slogans such as "The Buccanneer Route (1940s)", "Airline of the Stars (1950s-60s)," and, famously, its "Fly Me" campaign of the 1970s, where aircraft were given female names and flight attendants were featured in broadcast and print media campaigns. Some aircraft were named for celebrities, including Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis, in whose 1960 film The Bellboy both National and Miami Beach's Fontainebleau Hotel had featured roles. Until losing the license in 1962, National also owned Miami television station and ABC affiliate, WPST (Channel 10). The station continues today as WPLG under the ownership of Post-Newsweek Stations. 

In the autumn of 1978, management of Texas International Airlines, regional airline based in Houston under leadership of entrepreneur and corporate raider Frank Lorenzo, attempted a tender offer acquisition of National Airlines. With its headquarters in Miami and hubs there and in New Orleans, Houston, and Los Angeles, acquisition of National would have allowed tiny Texas International to expand substantially beyond its south-central U.S. area of service. National had strength in the north-south market along the east coast, and probably the strongest east-west routes along the southern tier.  

National management and unions, however, fought the TI acquisition stubbornly, and finally consummated a merger with Pan Am, who had emerged as a 'white knight' during the takeover battle. National was in the end acquired by Pan Am in 1980 and its operations were merged into those of the larger carrier. Pan Am continued to utilize the former National Miami maintenance base and headquarters building until Pan Am itself ceased operations in December 1991. Much later, National's "Sun King" logo was sold and "repackaged" much like Pan Am's to appear upon the branding of start up "low cost carrier" Southeast Airlines aircraft. 

Most industry analysts believe that Pan Am paid too high a price for National, and was ill prepared to integrate National's domestic route network with Pan Am's own globe-girdling international network. The cultures of National and Pan Am also proved to be incompatible, making workforce integration difficult. Texas International walked away from their foiled attempt with a multi-million dollar stock profit; however, and was well poised for Lorenzo's next ventures—a startup airline in the high-density East coast corridor (New York Air), and subsequent acquisition of Continental Airlines.

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