TWA was a great airline at one time. They had a dominant role in international routes and had a strong employee base. I worked at TWA as a pilot for a year before moving to the friendly skies. Its pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, etc. were a committed and proud bunch. I kept in touch with many of my friends after I left, and they maintained their commitment to the carrier through it all. They endured endless headaches with Icahn's asset stripping and the failed direction of management to address fleet issues and to maintain focus on growing the airline to compete with its peers in a wide range of locations worldwide. To me, TWA is the Kmart of aviation. Airlines cannot survive on asset sales, especially since such sales always mean the loss of lucrative routes and aircraft, otherwise, no one would buy them. Airlines also cannot survive on the network level if they are unable to feed passengers through their hubs if they depend on other airlines to provide so much of the feeding. STL
were good hubs for TWA, but they needed to build their presence in other venues to compete with the multiple hubs of the other majors. The re-invention of TWA should have happened more than twenty years ago when the carrier had the revenue and cash to re-build; yet, when the asset sales began, it was really the beginning of the end. The company had lost so much cash and needed the cash from the sales, and then with a fleet of aging aircraft, it was forced to limp along, though with an uncompetitive product. Now to the credit of Bill Compton, who started as a TWA pilot just as I was leaving for United, he brought about some much needed changes as CEO; he modernized the fleet, but quite frankly, his efforts were over-shadowed by years of losses, both in profits and passengers. It could not take back all that it sold, and TWA was unable to revivify its image as a class airline. Flight 800 might have pushed them further to the brink, but years and years of mismanagement had more to do with it. Nonetheless, TWA pilots remained very faithful to their airline, were the lowest paid in the industry. Back when TWA operated 747s, their captains made barely $100,000 compared to the more than $200,000 I made as a 741 pilot in the mid 90s. TWA's employees, time and time again, forfeited pay increases for their airline, and I salute them for their years of service. Of all the airline deaths we have endured over the past twenty years, TWA's is in my judgment, the most serious.