The History Of St Louis-Based Carrier Ozark Air Lines

Ozark Air Lines was an airline headquartered in St. Louis, MO. It operated to cities across the United States but had a developed route network in the Midwest. It was initially founded in 1950 and was then bought by Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1986, which in turn was absorbed into American Airlines.


The airline was founded in 1943 in order to operate services between St. Louis, MO and Springfield, MO. However, its operating license from the Civil Aeronautics Board was revoked in the 1940s, and operations had to stop. In 1950, the airline was able to secure rights to operate Parks Air Transport routes that were not previously activated. This included flights from its hub in St. Louis, MO, to cities around the Midwestern region, such as Chicago, Tulsa and Memphis. These services began on September 26, 1950, and used the Douglas DC-3 aircraft.



By 1955, the airline had expanded to flying to 35 cities. These included large cities such as Indianapolis, IN, and Nashville, TN, but also medium-sized cities like Wichita, KS, and Sioux City, IA. In addition to expanding its route network, Ozark Air Lines also diversified its fleet in the 1950s and 1960s. By 1965, they had 21 Douglas DC-3s, 15 Martin 4-0-4s (piston-engine aircraft) and 7 Fairchild F-27s (turboprop aircraft).

In September 1966, it was confirmed that Ozark Air Lines was seeking a merger with Central Airlines, based in Texas. The merger would have made the airline one of the largest domestic air carriers. However, in December 1966, the airlines mutually suspended the talks of merging, citing financial concern as their main reason.

Despite the unsuccessful merger talks with Central Airlines, in the late 1960s, the airline continued its expansion towards the Eastern seaboard but also added key western cities such as Denver in 1966. This also coincided with the airline’s transition to using jet aircraft on its services, which began with the introduction of the Douglas DC-9-10s in July 1976.

Ozark also started flying to cities in the Southeast. In 1978, Atlanta began to be served by Ozark, and several cities in Florida were added to the route network in 1979. In addition, the airline was awarded a contract to fly from Washington Dulles (IAD) to both Champaign and Peoria in the same year.

Merger with TWA

Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Ozark Air Lines both operated a hub at St. Louis Airport. TWA accounted for 56.5% of the traffic, while Ozark had 26.3%. This effectively meant that the two airlines combined had a duopoly at the airport, as they had control of over 80% of the traffic at St Louis. Therefore, on March 1, 1986, the two airlines decided to merge, subject to both shareholder and governmental approval. Both airlines’ shareholders approved the merger in the late summer of 1986, and approval by the United States Department of Transportation (DoT) was granted on September 12, 1986.

On October 27, 1986, Ozark ceased to exist as an independent company. TWA began to phase out the Ozark brand and repainted many jets with the classic TWA livery.

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