I’m an aviation geek and have an extensive collection of airline timetables. If you want to know what a timetable is I have a post for that called What is a timetable. I’ll post weekly on a timetable topic.
I’m the nostalgic type, so appreciation for the flight that lit my passion for aviation and travel is important to me.
Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) timetable effective September 5, 1984
This week’s timetable is the one that was active when we took our first family vacation in the winter of 1984. I was 11 and excited for months before the trip.
Our family of seven flew from Portland to San Francisco and had a weather interruption that caused us to switch to Alaska Airlines onward to Ontario. Weather in SFO… surprise?
I remember the delays, waiting in crowded 80’s terminals during the holidays, but mostly the smile on the nose of the plane and getting little sandwiches in wicker baskets. I remember the smell of the plane – jetfuel mixed with coffee burners. I loved it all, and mostly, still do.
Spreading the smile
PSA got started way earlier before deregulation in 1949 and was allowed to fly unrestrained within California because the airline industry was only regulated inter-state. PSA’s low cost, no frills model would lead to competitor Air California (eventually AirCal) starting service in 1967.
Both airlines inspired Southwest Airlines to begin service in 1971 with the same intra-state protection within Texas.
After deregulation in October, 1978 airlines were allowed to fly anywhere (with a few exceptions like DCA) and started testing their ability to grow. All the cities you see on the route map outside of California would be added after 1978.
Southwest by Southwest
This timetable reveals PSA’s role as the early Southwest Airlines in California, with 17 nonstops between LAX and SFO each day each way, including the “midnight flyer” which left around midnight in each direction.
A few years later in 1986 the famous smile would merge into US Air. US Air wouldn’t have the experience to effectively run this low cost part of the business, and the west coast routes would slowly fade away.
The competitor at the time, AirCal, was sold to American Airlines at a similar time and enjoyed the same demise as PSA, which left a void for Southwest to enter the market and build an empire to become what they are today in the state of California and everywhere else.
The smile lands in Portland
I get really distracted when I open the closet of timetables, so I happened upon this May 18, 1983 vintage which promotes the start of PDX service. Thought I’d add this since it’s about my first flight from PDX.
Looks like PSA started service from Portland to San Francisco with four flights a day. Three continued on to LAX and one on to SAN. 15 months later in 1984 the schedule was basically the same.
Low cost legacy in California
Every now and then I find nuggets of gold like this that put a printed time stamp on the cost of air travel. In this case, cost of travel in 1983.
Through my extensive knowledge of derivatives and forecasting*, adjusting for inflation, the cost of travel between PDX and SFO printed on the back page of the timetable ($79) has the same buying power today (2018) of $203 each way. A quick browse on Alaska Airlines website shows PDXSFO several weeks in advance is $114 one way.
*Just kidding! I used the CPI Inflation calculator to determine the value in today’s dollars.