WASHINGTON, D.C. – The news that a civilian airliner was a bit off course and went into restricted airspace around Washington, D.C. made a bit of a surprise for many folks in the South. The reason? The plane was listed as a Piedmont Airlines plane, and Piedmont is an airline that many thought had completely disappeared when it merged with Allegheny and PSA to form USAir, now USAirways.
Piedmont. Oh Piedmont, how we miss your almonds and full cans of Coke!
The news reports today say that Piedmont Airlines flight 4352, which was heading from Hilton Head, S.C., to Reagan National, lost contact with Air Traffic Control, and the incident scared federal officials, who evacuated the U.S. Capitol.
The Piedmont of airline history is not the Piedmont of today. Piedmont is a subsidiary of USAirways, and it operates commuter flights as USAirways Express. A bit about them from their website:
Our airline was founded by Mr. Richard Henson in 1931 as Henson Flying Service, a fixed-base operator. In 1962 scheduled airline service commenced as Hagerstown Commuter. Today, Piedmont operates nearly 440 daily departures to 55 cities throughout the eastern United States and Canada. We currently operate 44 deHavilland DHC-8 turbo prop aircraft.
In the 1970s, they were mostly known for puddle-jumpers, most interestingly Japanese-made NAMC YS-11s, and today they operate the DHC-8. And while it isn’t a puddle jumper, its turboprops give the feeling of another era.
USAirways has been smart in its strategy with old airline brands that it has purchased. While many other airline companies have ignored or shut down their old brands during mergers, USAirways has kept the legacies of their original brands alive. This does three things. First, it keeps the brands alive so that others cannot use the brands. Secondly, it keeps the goodwill alive for passengers and staff who remember the old name. Lastly, it keeps the brand alive in case the airline might have a future use for it. While it may not be that much actual cash goodwill for the balance sheet, using an old brand as a subsidiary name is a smart way to preserve an old brand, and protect it for the future.
North Carolina (and the rest of the South) loved Piedmont, and even though it has been over 20 years since it merged into USAir, it is still remembered for its customer service and sensible, good humored-staff.
There is some revenue from licensing, we guess, but not much to speak of compared to companies like GM, which license jettisoned brands like Pontiac on shirts and other models. Nevertheless, if such a program even breaks even it is a win for USAirways, as it is free promotion for the airline.
USAIrways has found many ways to keep its old brands alive. It also had a brilliant scheme where it painted planes in the manner of smiley-faced PSA, Allegheny and Piedmont. These types of activities cost little, and are a bit of fun and harmless nostalgia for airline staff and passengers.