Most of Vanguard's problems were of it's own (or it's financier's) making.
The original plan was to be a sort of "Heartland" LCC, flying from MCI
to short to mid destinations. For a while that worked. For a couple of quarters they made money - not much, but some.
The airline was financed by William Hambrecht, an extremely successful banker, but it seems to have been clear to him fairly early on that Vanguard couldn't survive with it's then model. Or maybe he just wanted a bigger, grander airline.
Or maybe he just wanted to get his investment back.
There were some problems. The CEO was a bit seat of the pants, an ex-pilot, jumping into new cities (Cincinnati) and pulling out when they didn't work.
Hambrecht decided that Vanguard should merge with Frontier. To this end, he bought a big bunch of shares in Frontier.
But Frontier said no.
So Hambrecht made big changes at Vanguard. They began flying Denver to Midway and doubled service MCI
. It was as if Hambrecht wanted to try and screw Frontier.
Shock #1: Hambrecht enticed Jeff Potter away from Frontier to be CEO of Vanguard.
This led to a lot - I mean a LOT - of speculation that Potter's function was somehow to bring about the merger with Frontier.
Hambrecht insisted that Vanguard become "like Frontier, maybe better" - to start service to both coasts, to have the business class (see SkyBox above), and a new, smart livery.
He found some money (through investors and aircraft lessors) for some new planes, the MD
-80's, but not really enough money to make a big splash.
To reduce Vanguard's quite large debt, Hambrecht kept issuing stock (to himself and his pals) to forgive the debt, but this was really only smart paperwork - the debt was still there.
Shock #2: after approximately nine months on the job, Potter left Vanguard and returned to Frontier.
A new CEO was appointed at Vanguard, but there wasn't a lot he could do. The lessors weren't getting lease payments for aircraft (more stock issued to them), but they had nowhere else to put the planes, so they kept them at Vanguard.
Shock #3: 9/11.
Vanguard simply couldn't survive that whammy. Somehow, they kept flying and applied to the ATSB for a loan guarantee.
When the ATSB turned them down, that was the end.
Hambrecht decided he didn't want to flush any more money down the toot.
I had a small amount of money invested in them from the early days, the "Heartland" days, because I thought that was a pretty good idea.
That money went down the toot, too. Such is life when you invest in airlines.