October 17, 2015, marked the day of the last US Airways operated flight. US Airways flight 1939 departed from San Francisco International Airport (KSFO) at 10:07pm, arriving in Philadelphia International Airport (KPHL) the following morning at 5:52am.
US Airways was my original favorite airline, and also the first airline I ever remember flying. It was a flight from Jacksonville, FL to Philadelphia, PA. I was visiting my cousins, and it was the first time that I ever saw snow falling. It just started sprinkling as soon as our flight landed. I remember being so excited to see the first snowflakes fall onto the airplane window. For the weeks that followed, I would force all of my friends to sit in two columns of 3 seats each, while I dictated what I remember from the US Airways safety demonstration.
Years later, after arriving on an extremely long Lufthansa flight from Munich to Washington DC — Dulles — I was greeted on my regional US Airways Express flight with bountiful cups of ice and soda. (Ice and Coca Cola are always in limited quantities in Europe.)
US Airways always had a certain charm for me, it was the legacy carrier in my mind. Their livery was old fashioned, as was their seats, and their logo was distinctly minimal and restrained. While they did not keep up with the industry’s hard product enhancements (in-cabin seats and amenities), first class seats were easy for elite members to get as complimentary upgrades.
US Airways previously was an amalgamation of Allegheny Air, Piedmont Air, Pacific Southwest Air, and several others. They had been fraught for years operating (essentially) as two airlines: US Airways and America West Airlines after America West completed a reverse merger with US Air in 2005.
Though their history was fraught with difficulties, they remained a steadfast legacy carrier in the market for years. However, after today, all flights will operate as ‘American Airlines’ branded flights, under the American Airlines operating certificate. US Airways has ceased operations. Completing another reverse-merger with the bankrupt American Airlines.
I attended the final send-off of the last US Airways flight, number 1939 (the date of the first US Airways flight) from San Francisco to Philadelphia. The flight had originally started in Charlotte and had stopped in Phoenix (the primary hubs for US Air and America West, respectively) prior to arriving here. There were balloons, buffets of food and cake, and many of the airline’s previous management. Reporters and fans lined up to get trinkets (including an inflatable hat that was designed to look like a US Air A319) and board the very last flight ‘Cactus’ flight.
There is always a distinct sadness when something ends. Whether that is the last time you’ll be a teenager, the last time you’ll eat at your favorite local restaurant, or the last time a TV show airs. The last of anything brings about feelings of remorse, regret, and a form of nostalgia. You block out all the difficult movements in a fleeting attempt to leave your last touch with something pure and untarnished.
Sitting there at the departure gate, with my back to the Delta Airlines gates, another part of my past, I stared at the flight attendants and people who made up US Airways and the new American Airlines. In a feet of incredible coincidence, I ran into an old acquaintance waiting to board a Delta red-eye, bound for Atlanta.
I smiled and chatted about shallow things: what was happening around us, airline loyalty, things we’d been working on, why I was there and details of his upcoming vacation. We sat there, him eating a cupcake and pasta from the buffet, and me with my Admirals Club drink in hand, staring at the festivities from a distance.
Back at gate 48B, half of me still felt like I should try to impress him, as you often feel with old acquaintances, show him that I was a worthwhile person that he could wish he stayed in touch with.
He wasn’t the only person that had shown that there was the world outside the darkness that I had lived in for so long. Others would come and go. Attempting to help and wake me up, show me the world outside the dark corner I inhabited. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to understand or appreciate what they were giving me. I couldn’t accept the help. I pushed everyone away.
I couldn’t accept the help from the man sitting next to me at gate 48B, the man in the Mustang, the archivist, Ms. Shakespeare, the principal, or the director. No one could even tell me I was important and worthwhile enough for me to believe it. They all had worked so hard to help, but it wasn’t their job to keep trying to persuade me. They couldn’t keep pulling themselves down to my level, trying to help me up.
As I sit here, coming up on a year of picking up the broken pieces of who I was and trying to make something whole again, I can’t keep blaming myself. I have to forgive myself. For missing those guideposts: these real people who cared enough to try to help. For they saw something worthwhile in me, when I couldn’t. I am thankful to have a small number of real people standing around me now.
I have worked hard to break my habits formed and crystallized during my first 24 years. In a twist of an ending, I’m sad to see these traits fade away. I’m sad about the series finale. Most of all, I’m scared about what is happening next: what fills their void? There’s this whole new world around me that is starting to form.
So, as I said goodbye to the man at gate 48B, and said goodbye to US Airways flight 1939, I walked away thinking about the future: when the flight lands, at six-in-the-morning, everything around them changed.
“Stay tuned next for the sound of future becoming the present — becoming the past — in no time at all.” — Welcome to Night