An Idea for an Airline Becomes a Vision
John J. Mullen had a vision for a unique airline company, when he started USA 3000 Airlines. Partnering with the business Brendan Airways, LLC, Mullen began the airline under the umbrella of Apple Vacation Charters, a package travel booking company with a focus on Central America that began in 1969. His vision for the airline included both, scheduled flights in addition to more private, chartered flights. Mullen steered toward the offer of renting an entire plane to a customer, instead of going the traditional route of offering a single seat to the customer.
With USA 3000 Airlines, the customer could, in Mullen’s grand vision, have either option of chartering a plane or purchasing one individual seat on a flight. Part of Mullen’s initial vision for the charter airline was to bring more tourists down to locations beneath the Apple Vacation Charter Umbrella, such as Cancún and different parts of Central America.
An Airline is Born: The Early Days of USA 3000 Airlines
Originally headquartered in Newtown Square, PA, USA 3000 Airlines began operations in the year 2000. Mullen began the airline with just one aircraft, an Airbus A320. USA 3000 Airlines hired a full staff of experienced and dedicated pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants to manage their first A320 aircraft. On December 28, 2001, USA 3000 Airlines’ inaugural flight sailed across a blue sky from the city of Philadelphia down to the tropical Mexican city of Cancún.
After that first flight, the airline picked up speed with customers seeking charter planes. The airline eventually named the Philadelphia International Airport as its home base.
Customers seeking a charter plane rental with USA 3000 Airlines during 2001 and 2002 would book their chartered flights through the services of Apple Vacations. This booking service allowed for packaged deals on chartered flights. Apple Vacations was one of the first online booking services of its kind and certainly one of the first online booking services to offer chartered flight rentals to its customers as opposed to the more traditional route of booking a seat on a scheduled flight.
Due to the ease of online booking, chartered flights through USA 3000 Airlines became a simple luxury for its customers.
These first charter flights set off for locations all over the Western Hemisphere from USA 3000’s homebase of Pennsylvania, in addition to airports in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Ohio. With this leap in business for the airline’s chartered flights, USA 3000 sprung and purchased an additional Airbus A320 to use on its fleet.
In 2002, when potential chartering customers demanded business in Chicago, Mullen purchased a third aircraft of the same model to use specifically for chartered flights departing from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. With a total of three aircraft on the airline’s fleet at this point, Brendan Airways and USA 3000 Airlines were receiving loyal business. Mullen’s original vision for renting chartered flights was quickly becoming the new company’s reality.
The Devastating Impact of 9/11 on a Commercial Airline
The terrorist events of September 11, 2001 caused American travelers to feel an overall uneasiness toward flying. With the safety of commercial airlines and the attached security screening process in question, fewer American travelers reached to purchase tickets for any flight on any airline. Many families wondered, if they’d ever feel safe enough to fly on a commercial airline again after the events of 9/11. Unfortunately, the negative impact of this devastating national event had its effect on USA 3000 Airlines, which was just planning its first chartered flights at the time.
An airline customer felt a greater sense of safety, when booking a chartered flight, as opposed to a scheduled flight, giving USA 3000 Airlines an advantage in the commercial airline industry. A chartered flight lends the customer overall control over the passenger list on the plane, which can make a flight feel more safe. The customer also receives special treatment from the in-flight crew of a chartered plane, shaking hands with the pilot and flight attendants before lift-off, giving the customer a greater sense of trust in his or her in-flight crew during the flight. Due to these advantages of the chartered flight, the post-9/11 slump that USA 3000 Airlines experienced did not last long. Customers began demanding more and more chartered departures through Apple Vacations quickly.
USA 3000 Airlines Expands its Services
Come 2003, the airline’s charter services still appealed greatly to its loyal customers. However, it was time for the airline to extend its offerings to a different type of customer. In addition to offering the same packages of charter flights to customers, USA 3000 Airlines began offering more traditional, individual seating on their aircraft for scheduled flights to different locations. At this time, the airline began offering regular flights arriving to more tropical locations, as the original intention of Apple Vacations described, including many islands in the Caribbean and Bermuda.
The airline also began providing more and more flights departing from Northeastern cities that landed in different parts of Florida. Later in the year, parts of the USA 3000 fleet provided seasonal service to more competitive cities like Milwaukee and Boston. By providing seasonal service, the airline was not attached to these cities, but could provide more service to them in the future, if they chose to do so. USA 3000 considered seasonal service to be a foot in the door at more populated airports.
Since USA 3000 Airlines began operating its variety of services in many new locations in 2003, the need to purchase new aircraft inescapably came about. By the end of the year 2004, USA 3000 had purchased nine brand new aircraft – all Airbus A320 models to match the rest of the fleet – in addition to leasing a handful of other aircraft from competing airlines to use as part of its seasonal fleet.
USA 3000 Airlines’ Appeal to Customers
Studies show that customers are more loyal toward their preferred commercial airline than they are to any other service or product. When a customer trusts a commercial airline, they feel they can rely on the airline to put their safety above all other factors. Additionally, when a customer relies on an airline, they put their trust in the airline to arrive to their location in a prompt manner.
During its time in the industry in the early part of the 21st century, USA 3000 Airlines developed a base of many trusting customers loyal to the USA 3000 name.
Due to its online booking platform partner Apple Vacations, USA 3000 Airlines was able to drive their prices down low enough to a point that booking customers could find affordable. This gave the airline a positive reputation for being inexpensive but not cheap. The airline was easy to afford but did not skimp on customer service because of that fact.
Customers enjoyed the fact that they could fly with the airline and not spend too much, giving them more opportunities to travel and take vacations with the airline in the future.
Customers were also drawn to booking USA 3000 flights, because of the specific airports the airline chose. USA 3000 Airlines was widely known for choosing to land and depart in more off-the-beaten-path airports. Loyal customers often initially chose USA 3000 for this very reason.
This kind of airport typically had less traffic than the more remote airport and shorter lines at check-in and security. Plus, the airports USA 3000 chose were often more conveniently located to customers’ homes or ultimate destinations, making the overall travel experience more efficient and time-saving on the customer’s behalf.
In general, too, the overall USA 3000 Airlines customer feedback provides that the airline’s flights ran on time and felt efficient. When booking with USA 3000, customers didn’t feel they had to worry about waiting on a delayed flights or arriving late, giving loyal customers peace of mind when flying with the airline.
In addition, to receiving terrific customer service, loyal customers of USA 3000 Airlines reaped the benefits of the company’s rewards program. Members of the USA 3000 Preferred Perks program received special treatment through priority check-in, boarding, and baggage handling, plus preferred seating of their choice, usually in the coveted seats in the front of the aircraft. The rewards program later offered meals and alcoholic beverages free of charge to their in-flight Preferred Perks members.
Changes in the Operations of USA 3000 Airlines
As soon as competing airlines began cutting their prices lower and lower, USA 3000 had to respond by cutting back. The airline removed themselves from a number of airports in 2008, including one of their first bases, Newark Liberty Airport. The detrimental rise in fuel prices later caused the airline to cease providing service to several locations, including many airports in Florida. By the summer of 2008, the only Florida airport offering USA 3000 service was the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. The price of a barrel of fuel continued to rise, topping at nearly $130 a barrel.
John J. Mullen, the founding CEO of USA 3000 Airlines, stood down to work full-time on the expansion of Apple Vacations. He was replaced in November 2008 by Steven Harfst, who became the new CEO of USA 3000.
One of Harfst’s biggest changes to the airline was his request to certify the USA 3000 fleet, as a United States Civil Reserve Air Fleet, involving the private business in the United States military. Harfst’s request to the United States Transportation Command was approved and the USA 3000 fleet became a certified air carrier in January 2009. This change in the airline’s operations allowed USA 3000 to bid on chartered flights with the United States military, both domestically and internationally.
Once Harfst engaged the airline as a certified Civil Reserve Air Fleet, he made several other internal improvements to the company. USA 3000 made several aircraft improvements to their fleet of A320s and also focused on web sales, making changes to the USA 3000 website to make it easier for customers to book a flight through the airline directly.
Through all these changes and improvements, the economic downturn still overswept the United States in 2008. The airline industry felt the shockwaves from this recession in early 2009. With personal budgets slashing across the United States, luxuries like private chartered flights, family vacations and simple travel were often the first to be cut back. Among other airlines, USA 3000 experienced United States’ families’ lack of purchases of plane tickets at this time. The airline reacted quickly by ceasing its services in more locations, including some of their largest customer bases–Milwaukee, Detroit, Baltimore and the company’s homeplate of Pittsburgh–in addition to finally closing the final Florida base in Fort Myers, ending all services to Florida entirely.
By 2011, USA 3000 had cut its fleet back to five operating A320 aircraft. At that time, the company did not decide to declare bankruptcy like so many other companies in the service industry did as a result of the economic downturn. Instead, Apple Vacations decided to valiantly close their airline entirely. The company did so in November 2011, dissolving USA 3000 Airlines entirely.
USA 3000 Airlines Entirely Closed in 2011
The airline’s website now thanks all customers for their business over eleven fantastic and fulfilling years. The airline refers all business to the company Apple Vacations, the original travel booking website for flights, hotels and combined packages similar to websites like Expedia or Priceline. Though USA 3000 Airlines came and went, the original vision of Apple Vacations’ packaged deals still remains intact with technology today.
Now, the package travel website extends service through airlines, such as Frontier Airlines, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airways, and AeroMexico, to continue its original vision of extending services down to Central America and Mexico specifically.