The Jet Age (1958 - Today)

New and Expanding Airlines

Deregulation spurred the creation of dozens of new airlines and prompted many smaller airlines to expand.

With deregulation, PeoplExpress, Presidential, New York Air, and other new airlines arose. Local and regional airlines-Air Florida, Frontier, Ozark-tried to expand nationally. Eastern, Braniff, Delta, Continental, Western, and Northwest extended their networks to compete with the largest carriers. Some intrastate airlines, including Pacific Southwest, Air California, and Southwest, expanded too.

Faced with all this new competition, established airlines tried to lure passengers with lower fares and curbed costs by cutting cabin service.

Bob Garrard

PeoplExpress epitomized the new airlines when it began flying in 1981. It made the underused Newark, New Jersey, airport its hub. By eliminating in-flight services and maximizing employee productivity, it offered very low fares. It instantly became popular, especially with budget travelers.

New York Air McDonnell Douglas
National Air and Space Museum Archives

New York Air offered low-cost shuttle service in the East between Washington, New York, and Boston. The nonunion airline flew bright red McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and MD-80 airliners.

PeoplExpress Conference Room Sign
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

PeoplExpress Conference Room Sign

This hand-made sign reflects the low-cost approach of PeoplExpress.

Flying Nosh
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

The Flying Nosh

Reflecting New York Air's regional culture, in-flight snacks were referred to as noshes and served in bags such as this.
Gift of Charles Wolfe

Regional Airlines

Since deregulation in 1978, small regional airlines have grown dramatically. Regional airlines, which include commuter airlines, serve small cities in local geographic areas and provide substantial passenger traffic to the large national airlines. Today, regionals carry more than 20 percent of the nation's airline passengers and operate large fleets of small, fuel-efficient jet-powered aircraft.

Most regional airlines are either owned by or under contract to the major carriers. Through operating agreements, or code sharing, regionals carry traffic between small cities and major airline hub airports, thereby generating substantial traffic for the national carriers.

TW Brasilia EMB 110
Courtesy Embraer

The Brazilian designed and built Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante and the larger EMB 120 Brasilia (shown here) were popular regional turboprop airliners in the late 20th century.

USAir Bombardier Q300
Courtesy Bombardier

Formerly known as de Havilland Canada Dash 8s, the turboprop airliners of the Bombardier Q Series are designed for the rigors of daily flights and are capable of short takeoff and landing (STOL) operations. These versatile aircraft seat 40 to 78 passengers.

Regional Jets

Responding to passenger preferences for pure jet aircraft, regional airlines rushed to buy a new generation of airliners powered by small, highly efficient turbofan jet engines.

Courtesy Embraer

Embraer introduced its ERJ 145 series of regional jets in 1996. Based on the Brasilia fuselage, the ERJ 145 family consists of four aircraft with seating ranging from 37 (ERJ-135) to 50 (ERJ 145). Seating on the larger E-Jet series ranges from 70 (ERJ 170) to 118 (ERJ 195). Shown here is an American Eagle ERJ 140.

Courtesy Embraer

A United Express ERJ 170.