Which Aircraft Did Vanguard Airlines Operate?

Before we take a look at what aircraft Kansas-based Vanguard Airlines had in its fleet, let’s first learn a little about the airline. Founded in 1994 as a low-cost airline, Vanguard’s business plan centered around undercutting the major carriers’ costs and offering lower fares to its customers.

While a regular, booked in advance, one-way fare of $ 29 was pretty standard, Vanguard also offered super low fares of just $ 10 for a one-way ticket. However, by the time Vanguard began operations, most of the big airlines had learned how to deal with the competition, making it difficult for new low-cost start-ups to be profitable.


Vanguard Airlines grew quickly

In its second year of operations, Vanguard was offering regularly scheduled non-stop flights from its hub in Kansas City to the following airports:

Vanguard Airlines also offered a flight between Kansas City and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLT) in Utah via a short stop in Denver. During the first years of operations, all Vanguard airlines flights were aboard Boeing 737-200 jets with a single economy class configuration. A year later, in the summer of 1995, Vanguard had added more destinations from Kansas City, which included:

  • Des Moines International Airport (DSM)
  • Minneapolis – Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)
  • Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT)

Vanguard began flying from Chicago Midway

At the same time, Vanguard airlines also started fling between Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) and Minneapolis / St. Paul. A year later, in 1996, Vanguard started flying between Kansas City and California with non-stop flights to both Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

As time passed, Vanguard increased its flight out of Chicago Midway, making it a secondary hub to Kansas City. Now adding and dropping routes depending on profitability, and by 2000, Vanguard Airlines had outsourced its reservations to a call center in Mission, Kansas, run by Dakotah Reservations, using mostly college students attending the University of Kansas.

9/11 changed everything for Vanguard

At the same time as it outsourced the reservations, Vanguard also looked to move away from its low-fare, low-cost model and become an airline that offered more than just low-priced tickets. The move worked, and Vanguard reaped the reward with an improved operational and financial performance.

By the summer of 2001, Vanguard Airlines was having its best year, but that all changed following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. With a sharp decline in the number of people flying, Vanguard cut executive pay by 25%, laid off 20% of its workforce, and put the rest on a 32-hour week. Also, to liven up its image, Vanguard added McDonnell Douglas MD-80 Series aircraft to its fleet and a new colorful livery reminiscent of how Braniff painted its planes.

Despite business beginning to pick up by the summer of 2002, Vanguard still had $ 80 million of debt and had credit card companies worried that they would lose money if the airline failed. The airline’s financial situation was unsustainable, and on July 29, 2002, Vanguard Airlines ceased operations.

During its brief seven years of operations, Vanguard Airlines operated a fleet comprised of the following aircraft:

  • 25 x Boeing 737-200s
  • 2 x Boeing 737-300QC
  • 10 x McDonnell Douglas MD-80s

Did you ever fly with Vanguard? Let us know in the comments.

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