Bicentennial Man: Ford '76 and Beyond

Post-Deregulation Airline Merger Mania - Part One
Post-Deregulation Airline Merger Mania - Part One

The passage of the Kennedy-Cannon Act in 1977 had entirely deregulated the airline industry and by early 1980 abolished the Civilian Aeronautics Bureau for good, and with this move came an explosion of mergers, bankruptcies and rebalancing within the previously tightly-controlled industry. A rush to consolidate routes and networks was paired with other airlines following the example of Delta's Atlanta hub or United's Chicago operation after seeing the tremendous success both had in the hub-and-spoke model.

The first major shoe to drop was in 1978, when Continental and Western announced their merger as "Continental-Western," a name chosen after CA's eccentric chairman Bob Six won a coin toss (and a name that would last only until 1983, when the "Wester" was dropped for good). The new Continental, through this merger, was able to dramatically consolidate its operations at their Los Angeles headquarters, becoming the largest carrier at LAX by a good amount, and also handed it Western's hubs at Salt Lake City and Denver. In the long term, these two hubs would serve more as competition for one another than, complements, and by 1990 Continental had dramatically reduced their presence at SLC in favor of constructing another fortress hub at Denver. The move in one fell swoop would make CA the dominant carrier west of the Rockies and the chief competitor for American and TWA in the Plains states.

The next major merger was that in 1979 which produced Republic Airlines, cobbling together North Central and Southern to form a major three-hub network out of Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis. Republic's next goal was to become the biggest airline in the United States by destinations by adding Hughes Airwest, a flailing West Coast airline, to its portfolio, but in early 1980 they were beaten to the punch by Trans World Airlines, which outside of a small operation in Portland had never had a substantial Western presence and under new management wanted to beef up its small trans-Pacific offerings, which until then had included only Taipei by way of Honolulu. Hughes Airwest at least gave them a large foothold on the West Coast and allowed Trans World to do what they really wanted - go head-to-head with Pan Am in San Francisco (and to a lesser extent the increasingly competitive LAX) now that routes were not protected for the Flying Blue Meatball. The Airwest acquisition would be the first of three major mergers involving TWA in the 1980s during a major and delicate strategic rebalancing that would position it for its run in the 1990s as America's dominant domestic and international carrier.

Nobody could have expected the earthquakes that were to follow, however, which made the Continental, Republic and TWA moves look like a mere appetizer. The top dog for years in US air travel had been Pan Am, which had operated an almost exclusively international route network and in the early Jet Age emerged as a towering symbol of American prestige and soft power. The Pan Am of 1980 was a different animal; its heavy bet on the 747 right before the 1973 oil crisis had looked like a mistake in hindsight, it no longer enjoyed exclusive rights in many overseas markets and it had no real domestic feeder system to speak of outside of line-to-line routes between hubs in JFK, Miami and SFO. That was why securing a domestic partner to absorb became an odyssey for Pan Am board members in the late 1970s once deregulation made it a necessity for survival; CEO William Seawell was determined to get it done before he retired. Pan Am had a number of smaller airlines it was interested in gobbling up: Northwest Orient, which was a dominant trans-Pacific carrier but would not solve the domestic issue, National out of Miami which would boost Pan Am's position in that market, and the unlikeliest but most intriguing option of Eastern, which would largely duplicate an existing route network but do so in a way that provided at least a little more feed.

Pan Am's interest in Northwest declined once National and Eastern both began suffering from labor and financial strife; but the bid for National became a debacle, with the price bidding up and up as other airlines both wanted the Florida carrier's routes for themselves and to kneecap Pan Am. Seawell was approached secretly by Frank Borman, the head of Eastern, with an offer - a merger with Eastern, which despite being profitable in 1977 and 1978 was now entering a period of turmoil again and was being eyed by other airlines. An Eastern-Pan Am merger would interline the two airlines' major operations in JFK and Miami and create a near-fortress hub in the latter, while giving Delta considerably more competition in Atlanta (which was envisioned as a major domestic feeder hub) and then giving the new airline the size and heft to rapidly expand a Midwestern hub at either O'Hare or elsewhere for additional domestic routes. Borman would take over for Seawell as CEO once the merger was complete and the new company would be better positioned to restructure debts accrued by both in the 70s and ward off the dangerous new deregulated world.

Seawell agreed, in private, and quietly declined to meet the latest bid for National in the bidding war - which went to United. As excited as United executives were at their new foothold in the Southeast, mere weeks later Seawell and Borman held a press conference at the Fontainebleu in Miami to announce the combination of two of America's biggest airline brands, Pan American World Airways and Eastern Air Lines, into a single "super-airline" that would continue to be headquartered in New York but with its main operating base, crew training facilities and largest hub at Miami. The news made United's bid for National effectively worthless near overnight, with Miami about to crowd the smaller airline out, but the promissory note was paid and United would expend millions in legal fees over the next few years trying to back out of its obligation to buy the rapidly-failing airline. The first big debacle of the deregulation era had occurred...
 
Post-Deregulation Airline Merger Mania - Part One

The passage of the Kennedy-Cannon Act in 1977 had entirely deregulated the airline industry and by early 1980 abolished the Civilian Aeronautics Bureau for good, and with this move came an explosion of mergers, bankruptcies and rebalancing within the previously tightly-controlled industry. A rush to consolidate routes and networks was paired with other airlines following the example of Delta's Atlanta hub or United's Chicago operation after seeing the tremendous success both had in the hub-and-spoke model.

The first major shoe to drop was in 1978, when Continental and Western announced their merger as "Continental-Western," a name chosen after CA's eccentric chairman Bob Six won a coin toss (and a name that would last only until 1983, when the "Wester" was dropped for good). The new Continental, through this merger, was able to dramatically consolidate its operations at their Los Angeles headquarters, becoming the largest carrier at LAX by a good amount, and also handed it Western's hubs at Salt Lake City and Denver. In the long term, these two hubs would serve more as competition for one another than, complements, and by 1990 Continental had dramatically reduced their presence at SLC in favor of constructing another fortress hub at Denver. The move in one fell swoop would make CA the dominant carrier west of the Rockies and the chief competitor for American and TWA in the Plains states.

The next major merger was that in 1979 which produced Republic Airlines, cobbling together North Central and Southern to form a major three-hub network out of Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis. Republic's next goal was to become the biggest airline in the United States by destinations by adding Hughes Airwest, a flailing West Coast airline, to its portfolio, but in early 1980 they were beaten to the punch by Trans World Airlines, which outside of a small operation in Portland had never had a substantial Western presence and under new management wanted to beef up its small trans-Pacific offerings, which until then had included only Taipei by way of Honolulu. Hughes Airwest at least gave them a large foothold on the West Coast and allowed Trans World to do what they really wanted - go head-to-head with Pan Am in San Francisco (and to a lesser extent the increasingly competitive LAX) now that routes were not protected for the Flying Blue Meatball. The Airwest acquisition would be the first of three major mergers involving TWA in the 1980s during a major and delicate strategic rebalancing that would position it for its run in the 1990s as America's dominant domestic and international carrier.

Nobody could have expected the earthquakes that were to follow, however, which made the Continental, Republic and TWA moves look like a mere appetizer. The top dog for years in US air travel had been Pan Am, which had operated an almost exclusively international route network and in the early Jet Age emerged as a towering symbol of American prestige and soft power. The Pan Am of 1980 was a different animal; its heavy bet on the 747 right before the 1973 oil crisis had looked like a mistake in hindsight, it no longer enjoyed exclusive rights in many overseas markets and it had no real domestic feeder system to speak of outside of line-to-line routes between hubs in JFK, Miami and SFO. That was why securing a domestic partner to absorb became an odyssey for Pan Am board members in the late 1970s once deregulation made it a necessity for survival; CEO William Seawell was determined to get it done before he retired. Pan Am had a number of smaller airlines it was interested in gobbling up: Northwest Orient, which was a dominant trans-Pacific carrier but would not solve the domestic issue, National out of Miami which would boost Pan Am's position in that market, and the unlikeliest but most intriguing option of Eastern, which would largely duplicate an existing route network but do so in a way that provided at least a little more feed.

Pan Am's interest in Northwest declined once National and Eastern both began suffering from labor and financial strife; but the bid for National became a debacle, with the price bidding up and up as other airlines both wanted the Florida carrier's routes for themselves and to kneecap Pan Am. Seawell was approached secretly by Frank Borman, the head of Eastern, with an offer - a merger with Eastern, which despite being profitable in 1977 and 1978 was now entering a period of turmoil again and was being eyed by other airlines. An Eastern-Pan Am merger would interline the two airlines' major operations in JFK and Miami and create a near-fortress hub in the latter, while giving Delta considerably more competition in Atlanta (which was envisioned as a major domestic feeder hub) and then giving the new airline the size and heft to rapidly expand a Midwestern hub at either O'Hare or elsewhere for additional domestic routes. Borman would take over for Seawell as CEO once the merger was complete and the new company would be better positioned to restructure debts accrued by both in the 70s and ward off the dangerous new deregulated world.

Seawell agreed, in private, and quietly declined to meet the latest bid for National in the bidding war - which went to United. As excited as United executives were at their new foothold in the Southeast, mere weeks later Seawell and Borman held a press conference at the Fontainebleu in Miami to announce the combination of two of America's biggest airline brands, Pan American World Airways and Eastern Air Lines, into a single "super-airline" that would continue to be headquartered in New York but with its main operating base, crew training facilities and largest hub at Miami. The news made United's bid for National effectively worthless near overnight, with Miami about to crowd the smaller airline out, but the promissory note was paid and United would expend millions in legal fees over the next few years trying to back out of its obligation to buy the rapidly-failing airline. The first big debacle of the deregulation era had occurred...
Pan am and eastern together huh now this is something what is american airline doing in this sea of merger i wonder (also is the L1011 still a commercial disaster? Since if i remember eastern was their launch customer alongside TWA)
 
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Could we possibly save Brannif, so it's more than a punchline? It just seemed too many airlines died too fast.
Braniff will last a bit longer than it did OTL though it had a number of issues that make it tough to see it surviving into the present day. My thinking though is that it’s a merger partner rather than just going completely kaput. Lorenzo’s group of airlines would make a lot of sense as a big Texas op that could make life complicated for AA, for instance
 
Oh yeah speaking of airline what will happen to the big names like boeing,mcdonall douglas,airbus etc and also does southwest still exist ittl?
 
The Grind Goes On: The March 1980 Presidential Primaries New
The Grid Goes On: The March 1980 Presidential Primaries

The month of March would prove a critical one in the Republican primaries and a close to decisive one in the Democratic side; it all began with the Republican contest in South Carolina, in which Connally had assembled a formidable operation concentrated in that state hoping to score a near-knockout blow across the South a few days later with primaries in Alabama, Florida and Georga on the 11th. Connally's victory was not as large as expected, thanks to Reagan's recovery in New Hampshire and furious barnstorming across the Upstate in the narrow window between the Granite State primary and the Palmetto contest; the KO Connally had hoped for did not materialize as he won 32% to 24% over Reagan, performing well in the Low Country and around Columbia while Reagan outran him in the Greensville-Spartanburg area and in the Charlotte suburbs, a story of a more classic Southern profile and one for the new. The story repeated itself three days later in the triad of Southern contests, with Reagan shocking the national news media by firing his campaign manager John Sears the night of his South Carolina second-place photo finish; Connally carried rural areas in narrow wins in Alabama and Georgia while Reagan performed better, sometimes substantially, in suburban and working class areas, and won Florida by a surprisingly large margin and Connally barely finished ahead of Dole, who dominated in Tampa and Orlando to squeeze out enough delegates to justify staying in the race ahead of friendlier contests.

Democrats had a much busier day on the 11th; in addition to the three Southern states hosting GOP primaries, caucuses were held in Delaware, Oklahoma and Washington. As expected, Askew dominated in the three Southern states, earning his first true victories and netting a massive delegate haul thanks in particular to clearing 60% of the vote in Florida (Udall totally eschewed the state while Carey campaigned in Palm Beach, home of many New York transplants in order to secure an honorable second), but Udall was hamstrung elsewhere; despite his caucus-friendly progressive profile, his activist-driven campaign once again sputtered and allowed Askew to narrowly clinch the Oklahoma caucuses while Carey dominated not just in Delaware but Washington, too, surprising not just Udall but the campaign of Jerry Brown, which had gone all-in on the Washington caucuses to regain "momentum." Brown was attacked viciously in a series of speeches in Seattle by Congressman Leo Ryan, who endorsed Carey and from his wheelchair angrily denounced Brown's ties to the Jonestown Cult, doing his utmost to keep the events of November 1978 in the news. Brown inexplicably elected to stay in the race despite the massive albatross and his miniscule delegate haul; Carey's wins in Wyoming and Puerto Rico in the following weekend only further narrowed his potential avenues to make a splash as Lloyd Bentsen dropped out and the Democratic contest increasingly looked like a two-man race.

The GOP contest was no more clear after Illinois, the big prize on the 18th. Connally stunningly placed a far third; Reagan took 36% and Dole 34%, just enough to justify Dole staying in the race, and their mutual annihilation in their home state finally persuaded Crane and Rumsfeld to drop out, and both would endorse Reagan later in the week ahead of the critical New York and Connecticut races. Illinois was the death blow to Udall's campaign, too; Carey took a clear first place, dominating in Chicago and industrial cities like Quincy, Joliet and Rockford, while Askew won every county south of Bloomington and split the collar suburbs with Carey. Udall was able to only win Champaign County, home of the University of Illinois and he largely curtailed his campaigning afterwards.

Askew once again won a southern state, albeit by a narrower margin, in the Virginia caucuses and then it was on to the New York and Connecticut contests, which his small but intimate and canny inner circle had already conceded were going to be coronations for Carey. And indeed, they were - the "Man Who Saved New York" scored decisive landslide wins in both, though the collapse of the rest of the Democratic field (save increasingly gadfly Brown) allowed Askew to consolidate the rest of the delegates and keep in the hunt. Still, the quietly polite dynamic between Carey and Askew continued through the end of the month (both men ran heavily on their own records and against Ford's, and rarely criticized the other besides the most generic terms) and it was plain that the Democratic contest was now a two-man race - and if Askew couldn't figure out a way to broaden his appeal outside of the South, one he was increasingly likely to lose.

The GOP primary was a major contrast. In the week between Illinois and the New York/Connecticut contest, a debate was held between the three major candidates on Long Island and it became an ugly slugfest. Connally's prior indictment was brought up, Dole viciously attacked Reagan's suggestions to curtail Social Security and his "voodoo economics," and Reagan aggressively tore into Dole's "campaign to continue his legacy of defeat and retreat at home and abroad to those opposed to liberty." Reagan's muscular turn to the right after firing Sears and bringing in a new staff after South Carolina to let "Reagan be Reagan" had plainly stunted Connally's momentum as the candidate of the right but scared more establishmentarian figures back into Dole's lane; Reagan and Dole effectively tied, again, in New York, muddling the delegate haul and Dole won Connecticut by a broad margin. It seemed that for all the travails of the Ford administration and a restive base, a large subsection of the GOP primary voters were still not persuaded that the "couple of cowboys" were not too sleazy (Connally) or extreme (Reagan). For all his mediocre campaign skills and establishmentarian credentials, Dole had an opening and with major resources behind him looked poised to exploit it.

Of course, none of the three GOP frontrunners could have anticipated the wrench thrown in the dynamics of the race the night before the New York and Connecticut primaries, which would only begin to metastasize in the days to come ahead of the April primaries...
 
Good update. A Carey/Askew ticket is what I’m rooting for. Both are good men who can hopefully start to undo Ford’s foreign policy disaster. Currently the race seems like it could go either way but I’m leaning towards Carey as the winner. The last part was ominous though and knowing how much you’ve screwed with the world it won’t be a mild scandal. My guess is something goes wrong again in Latin America.
 
Good update. A Carey/Askew ticket is what I’m rooting for. Both are good men who can hopefully start to undo Ford’s foreign policy disaster. Currently the race seems like it could go either way but I’m leaning towards Carey as the winner. The last part was ominous though and knowing how much you’ve screwed with the world it won’t be a mild scandal. My guess is something goes wrong again in Latin America.
Very solid guess - it'll be the next update!
 
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