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Members of Oliver Wyman’s aviation practice have played a seminal role in the transformation of the US airline industry, advising on bankruptcies, restructurings, mergers, and operational integration as a flock of “city state” carriers consolidated into four strong national networks. The team’s story begins in the early 90’s, during a two-year period, while working with a host of professionals to help save America West Airlines. The airline not only survived, its turnaround launched a chain of events that led to the creation of the world’s largest airline.

Our team itself was forged in the crucible of airline consolidation.

Here’s the timeline from the birth of America’s legacy carriers to the four primary carriers of today –
and the formation of our industry-leading aviation practice.


Begins passenger service in 1929 and is later renamed Delta Air Services.


1924 Huff Daland Dusters is founded as a crop dusting company.


1925 Formed as Western Air Express.

Pan Am

1927 Pan American Airways begins operating between Key West, FL, & Havana, Cuba.


1926 Northwest Airlines formed.


1925 Trans World Airlines founded as Transcontinental & Western Air to fly from NYC to LA.


1930 American Airlines is founded.


1929 Boeing Air Transport buys up airmail lines & merges with Pratt & Whitney to create the United Aircraft & Transport Corp.


1939 Howard Hughes acquires control.


1939 Allegheny founded as All American Aviation.


1934 Continental Airlines is formed.



1967 Southwest Airlines founded as Air Southwest in Texas.


1971 Acquires Trans Caribbean Airways.

1979 Becomes USAir.



US Congress passes the Airline Deregulation Act, igniting an era of free-market competition. New carriers enter the market and new routes provide direct service to more cities. Fares drop as the number of carriers increases and most lines enjoy strong growth until an air traffic controllers strike in 1981.

1987 Merges with Western Airlines.

1986 Merges with Republic Airlines.

1989 Taken private in a leveraged buyout.

1986 Acquires Ozark Airlines.

1988 Investor
Carl Icahn takes control.

1987 Acquires Air California.

1986 Acquires Pacific Southwest Airlines.

1987 Acquires Piedmont Airlines.

1986 Acquires Frontier Airlines.

1987 Acquires New York Air, PeopleExpress.

1985 Acquires Muse Air.

America West

1983 America West begins operations with 3 leased Boeing 737 aircraft.


1991 Absorbs Pan Am assets and routes.

1991 Enters bankruptcy. Delta absorbs key assets and routes.

1992 Chapter 11 restructuring.

1995 Second bankruptcy.

1990 Acquires TWA’s London Heathrow routes.

1999 Buys Reno Air.

1996 Becomes US Airways.

1997 Buys Trump Shuttle.

1991 Enters Chapter 11 to restructure but is not expected to survive. Members of today’s Oliver Wyman aviation practice help engineer a turnaround.

1992 Acquires Morris Air.



Terrorist attacks cause traffic and revenues to plummet. Layoffs multiply. Insurance costs triple. Experts, including Peter Walsh, predict that consolidation is the only way that many legacy carriers will survive. By 2005, four of the six largest US carriers are operating under bankruptcy protection: Delta, Northwest, United, US Airways.

2005 Enters bankruptcy protection.

2008 Merges with Northwest Airlines, creating the biggest airline in the world.

2005 Enters bankruptcy protection.

2001 After third bankruptcy, acquired by American.

2001 Acquires TWA.

2002 Enters bankruptcy protection. Exits a year later. Files again in 2004.

2005 Acquired by America West, which adopts the US Airways brand.

2005 America West carries out a reverse merger, acquiring the assets and branding of the larger US Airways. The America West leadership team takes control of the combined company.

2002 Enters bankruptcy protection.


2011 AMR, American's parent company, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

2013 Agrees to merger with US Airways Group.

2013 Merges with American Airlines, displacing Delta/Northwest as the world’s largest airline.

2010 Acquired by United.

Merges with Continental.

2011 Acquires AirTran Airways.


Peter Walsh arrives in the US from Scotland, and joins PriceWaterhouse’s restructuring group 11 days before the stock market crashes.

Peter Walsh and the team work day and night during the frantic effort to keep America West flying.

Roger Lehman joins the team in Phoenix.

Peter Walsh joins Ernst & Young’s aviation practice. Roger Lehman and several others follow over the next twelve months.

Our Transportation consulting business, led by Hugh Randall, expands with the launch of the Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense practice.

Peter Walsh, Roger Lehman, John Seeliger, Andrew Watterson, Scott Eustace, and Birgit Andersen…

…join Mercer Management Consulting – now Oliver Wyman – to build the aviation consulting business and open the Dallas office.

Blair Pomeroy joins the aviation practice bringing expertise in strategy and commercial operations.

Walsh predicts there will be only three large legacy airlines, along with Southwest, in the future. In 2013, the prediction becomes fact.

Oliver Wyman rapidly expands the aviation team with a series of hires and acquisitions.

Randy Babbitt, Bob Hazel, and Tom Stalnaker join from Eclat Consulting, bringing network, labor, and airport experience.

The firm acquires CAVOK, a company with deep expertise in certification, maintenance, process efficiency, and safety.

Jonathan Keane joins Oliver Wyman’s London office, bringing expertise in the UK aviation sector to the team.

As further commitment to being at the forefront of the industry, Oliver Wyman acquires TeamSAI and integrates it into our CAVOK business.

When two US airlines merge, the most important step in the integration process is obtaining the Single Operating Certificate.  Simply put, this is the critical certification that is needed to allow them to operate as one airline. It’s no easy task – that’s why over and over again, clients call on Oliver Wyman and CAVOK teams to lead the effort. – Peter Walsh