American Airlines Honors PSA, the Model for Southwest Airlines

DALLAS (TheStreet) -- American (AAL) has painted its second heritage aircraft, and this one honors Pacific Southwest Airlines, always known as PSA and best remembered for the smile painted on the nose of its airplanes.

Painting of the A319 with tail number N742PS, which is part of the US Airways fleet, was completed Wednesday. On Friday, the aircraft is flying Mexico City-Phoenix, Phoenix-Oakland, Oakland-Phoenix and Phoenix-Baltimore.

US Airways
, which merged with American in 2013, acquired San Diego-based PSA in 1987. That acquisition is generally viewed as flawed, both because PSA was known for an informal, cheerful culture -- unlike the US Air culture of the time -- and because US Air eventually stopped flying most PSA routes.

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"PSA wanted to do (the merger)," long-time US Air executive Ed Colodny recalls in my upcoming book American Airlines, US Airways and the Creation of the World's Largest Airline, to be published in November.

"But from a cultural standpoint, there were differences, and when we took the smile off the PSA planes, there were screams up and down the West Coast," Colodny said.

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Perhaps PSA's most significant contribution to airline history was as the prototype for Southwest Airlines (LUV) . The story is recounted in the 2002 book, Poor Sailors' Airline, by Gary Kissel.

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