USA3000, an Apple Vacations-owned leisure airline that flew sun worshippers down to Mexico and the Caribbean, closed up shop after almost exactly 10 years in the sky.
You may neither know nor care about USA3000, but if you’re an airline dork you may be interested for 2 reasons:
First, as Travel Weekly lays out in this article, it’s actually got a pretty interesting history. In 1998 the founder of Apple Vacations realized that his vacation package business was relying on some shady charter operators with old equipment to ferry his customers to Acapulco and other warm climes. He decided that it was too risky to continue to rely on these charter flights and began the process to launch an airline. Yes, he thought that launching an airline was the less risky choice.
It took 3 years before the 1st of his 7 planes were delivered. Unfortunately, that delivery came in October 2001, right as people stopped traveling. In the coming years, other airlines increased their flights to sun destinations. This would have seemed like a killer for the young USA3000, but Apple saw it as an opportunity to spread some risk. They continued to build the USA3000 fleet, but they also began bulk-buying seats on other airlines flying south. This guaranteed their hotel partners that there would be a sufficient number of visitors to justify the negotiated rates they had with the properties.
Over time, the so-called “risk seat” business where they bulk buy from other carriers grew and allowed them flexibility they did not have by owning their own fleet. About 2 years ago they realized that flying their own planes was unnecessary and they started the process of winding the airline down. Its last scheduled flight in January 30th.
Second, it marks one of the last of the small, primarily regional airlines flying out there. The US commercial aviation map used to be dotted with Piedmonts, Alleghenys, Transtars and others that had a regional focus to their route maps. On my first trip to California in the mid-1980s, I was really excited to see a number of airlines (Transtar, Jet America) that I had never seen before. With consolidation, those guys are all gone or bundled into other airlines. Sure, for younger airline nerds you can still get that feeling at JFK or LAX with international airlines, but the airlines in Oakland are pretty much the airlines in Kansas City. Even at my (now advanced) age, I still stick my face to the window when I land somewhere to see if there’s any airlines I’ve never seen before. Makes me feel like a kid again.
So goodbye USA3000, we hardly knew ya.