Texas International Airlines began as Trans Texas Airways (TTA). Its history was that of a regional airline founded in 1947 in Brownwood, Texas. The airline began operations with a single six-passenger plane, flying from Brownwood to Abilene and San Angelo. Over the next few years, TTA expanded its route network, serving cities throughout Texas and neighboring states.
From One Plane to a Fleet
TTA’s main hub and base of operations remained in San Antonio. In 1953, TTA was purchased by Aviation Enterprises, a holding company that also owned several other regional airlines. Under Aviation Enterprises’ ownership, TTA continued to grow, adding more routes and aircraft to its fleet. By the end of the 1950s, TTA was operating flights to over 60 cities across the Southwestern United States. In the late 1960s, TTA established a hub in Houston, which became the airline’s main base of operations.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, TTA continued to expand its route network and modernize its fleet. In 1967, the airline changed its name to Texas International Airlines. This reflected its growing ambitions beyond the state of Texas. Texas International Airlines became known for its low fares and efficient operations. It quickly became a popular choice for travelers throughout the Southwest.
Texas International Airlines, the successor to Trans Texas Airways, went public in December 1968. The company offered 600,000 shares of common stock at $18.50 per share. It raised $11.1 million in the initial public offering (IPO). The IPO allowed the company to raise capital to fund its expansion plans and modernize its fleet.
Texas Air Corp.
Texas International Airlines had become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aviation Enterprises. They later changed its name to Texas Air Corporation. Texas Air Corporation went public in 1972. Texas International Airlines continued to operate as a subsidiary of the company until its merger with Continental Airlines in 1982.
In 1982, Texas International Airlines merged with Continental Airlines, one of the largest airlines in the United States at the time. The merger allowed Texas International to expand its reach even further, offering flights to destinations throughout the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The merged airline retained the Continental Airlines name and branding, but many of the routes and aircraft that were originally part of Texas International were retained.
Eastern Airlines – More than It Could Chew
Texas Air Corporation, the parent company of Continental Airlines, acquired Eastern Airlines in February 1986. At the time, Eastern was one of the largest airlines in the United States, with a significant presence in the East Coast and Caribbean markets. The acquisition was part of a larger strategy by Texas Air Corporation and its CEO Frank Lorenzo to create a national airline network. They hoped to compete with the major legacy carriers like American, Delta, and United. However, the integration of Eastern proved to be a difficult and costly process. Texas Air Corporation ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 1990. Sound similar to TWA?
The Frank Lorenzo Component
Frank Lorenzo had become involved with Texas International Airlines, which was the successor to Trans Texas Airways, in the early 1970s. He joined the airline as an executive vice president in 1972 and quickly rose through the ranks to become the president and CEO in 1974.
Under Lorenzo’s leadership, Texas International Airlines continued to expand its route network and modernize its fleet. In 1982, Texas International merged with Continental Airlines. Lorenzo became the chairman and CEO of the merged airline.
Lorenzo’s tenure at Continental was marked by a number of controversial moves. They included a bitter labor dispute with the airline’s flight attendants and the acquisition of Eastern Airlines, which ultimately led to Continental’s bankruptcy. Despite these controversies, Lorenzo is credited with helping to modernize the airline industry. He introduced new business models that have since become standard industry practices.
Lorenzo resigned from Continental Airlines in 1990 amid mounting financial losses and the airline’s bankruptcy. However, his impact on the airline industry continues to be felt to this day.
After leaving the airline industry in the early 1990s, Frank Lorenzo founded an investment firm called Savoy Capital and has been involved in various business ventures.
At its peak, Frank Lorenzo owned approximately 24% of the stock in Texas Air Corporation, the parent company of Continental Airlines and Eastern Airlines. However, his actual ownership stake varied over time due to stock sales, mergers, and other corporate actions. Lorenzo’s ownership stake in Texas Air Corporation made him one of the wealthiest and most powerful figures in the airline industry during the 1980s.
Lorenzo’s tenure at Continental and Eastern was controversial and marked by bitter labor disputes, bankruptcies, and accusations of union-busting. He remains a controversial figure in the airline industry. He is often cited as an example of how corporate greed and anti-union policies can harm workers and undermine the stability of entire industries.
- Year Started: 1967
- Year Ended: 1982
- Origin Of Name: Descriptive
- Location Sales: International
- Brand Name Predecessor: Trans Texas Airways
- Brand Name Successor: Continental Airlines
- Owner Original: Aviation Enterprises
- Owner While In Use: Texas Air Corp.
- Owner Successor: United Airlines
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: United Airlines
- Naics Code: 481111
- Location Headquarters: Houston, Texas, USA