AOA began transatlantic service shortly after the war’s end, using converted military aircraft. One of the early challenges was the lack of pressurization on those airplanes, which forced them to fly at an altitude no greater than 8,000 feet. The ride was often bumpy. By mid-1946, AOA was operating pressurized aircraft and flying regularly to London, Shannon, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm. AOA also served several cities in Germany, bringing the resources needed to rebuild that country.
As postwar peace brought growth to the air-travel market, flying became more comfortable and more sophisticated. In 1949, AOA introduced the 60-seat Stratocruiser aircraft, a pressurized derivative of Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress bomber. The two-level aircraft featured sky lounges on the lower deck, and it was in one of those lounges that a young Frank Sinatra sang for passengers on a 1950 flight from New York to London. Unfortunately, despite its popularity, AOA was not a financial success, and in late 1950, AA sold it to Pan American World Airways. This ushered in a period of 30-plus years in which American was locked out of the highly regulated transatlantic market.
In 1982, one of our rivals that had the authority to fly between DFW and Gatwick filed for bankruptcy protection and suspended service. AA had been designated as the backup carrier for that route, and we filed an application to launch replacement service. We landed the authority, but we had to start the service within a week. In just five days, the AA team mobilized the aircraft, crews, and support staff needed to launch our 747 on its 4,737-mile journey.
Our international system has come a long way since then. Today, we offer 19 daily flights from U.S. cities to London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports, and we provide service to 250 cities in more than 40 countries around the world. We’re also a founding member of the oneworld alliance, which serves nearly 700 destinations in more than 140 countries and territories.
In November 1945, American Airlines ran an advertisement that said, “Global air transportation makes a closer cultural relationship among all peoples not only possible but imperative. As distances grow shorter by air and frequency of international contact increases, the ability to be a good neighbor is acquired with more convenience and growing satisfaction.” Sixty-two years later, that still rings true. The work we do makes our world not just a smaller place but also a more peaceful place.
As it happens, 1982 was also the year I joined American. I’d like to thank the many colleagues and customers who have enabled me to do work I enjoy, for the company I love, for the past quarter century.
Thanks for flying American Airlines, and have a great trip!
Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO