What’s in a name?

With the coming merger of Northwest and Delta Airlines, it’s worth pausing for a moment and honoring the airlines that have given their lives to the Delta brand.

It started with Delta Air Corporation, which was a cropdusting service in Louisiana in the ’20s.


But the roots — and the routes — go to Boston.


Boston & Maine was part of the old B&M Railway Company, and it operated under contract to National Airways, founded by — among others — Amelia Earhart. National eventually became Northeast Airlines. The airline was famous for its yellow airplanes, called yellowbirds.


The airline merged with Delta in 1972, which is how Delta became such a big “player” in the northeast.

In the ’50s, Delta picked up Chicago & Southern Airlines, which had previously been known as Pacific Seaboard Air Lines.


In 1986, Delta picked up Western Airlines, another airline that started in the ’30s as a mail carrier.


Delta acquired the transatlantic routes of bankrupt PanAm, and then the lucrative Boston-New York shuttle from the same airline.


Northwest, similarly, started as a mail carrier in 1926.

In 1968, Pacific, Bonanza, West Coast were merged into Air West.

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Just a few years later — 1971 — Howard Hughes bought the airline and renamed it Hughes Airwest.


With airline deregulation, Southern Airways and North Central Airlines merged into Republic Airlines in 1979 . A second “Herman the Duck” joined the logo and flew in the other direction.

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Republic acquired Hughes Airwest in 1980. In 1986, Northwest acquired Republic.

And the rest is…

  • minn whaler

    What happened with Eastern Airlines? did they just diappear?

  • Bob Collins

    Ah, yes, Eastern Airlines. Another of my many great stock purchases.

    Eastern just stopped operating… the day after the start of Desert Storm. It had systematically been raided of many of its assets by the power brokers of the day (Frank Lorenzo).

    Eastern was Delta’s biggest competitor in the Northeast and thrived because of its Boston-LaGuardia-Washington shuttle (you didn’t need reservations and they’d gurantee a flight,e ven if they had to roll out an extra plane, just for you), and it’s Boston-Orland-Miami routes.

    If it happened today, Eastern would’ve been allowed to operate in bankruptcy. But, alas…

    Eastern Airlines. “#1 to the sun.”

  • B2

    “…..and the big fish ate the little fish, and then there were none.” There used to be twenty brands of jam on the shelf at the old Lunds store on Lake Street, including our favorite, a German one in a tin can called, I think, pflammenmus – plum jam. Then one day there were three or four brands, probably owned by the same company if you read the fine print.

    The jam hasn’t become any tastier for all the”natural selection’ – I wonder if the airline service will get any better? You think?