Defunct airline from the United States.

Braniff as a company was formed in 1930 by financier Thomas E. Braniff, in conjunction with the Universal Aviation Corporation. However since 1928 Thomas Braniff had been running a regular route between Oklaholma City and Tulsa in a 5-seater Stimpson Detroiter airplane, using the Braniff Airlines name. The company at the time also did flying training and dealt in aircraft parts.

In the 1930s Braniff expanded its services to Wichita Falls, Kansas City, Saint Louis and Chicago, financed through a lucrative deal with the US Postal Service. Its mail runs extended down to Mexico. In 1937 the airline started to acquire more decent aircraft for passenger services - DC-2's and DC-3's - along with air hostesses. In World War Two its growth was curtailed as it provided half of its fleet to the US military, centralising its operations in Dallas instead of Oklaholma City.

In the 1950s it went through another round of expansion, partially by acquiring other airlines like Mid-Continent Airlines, while investing in and running smaller airlines in Latin America. In 1959 it started operating jet aircraft, including Boeing 707's and BAC-111's, and started looking seriously at concentrating on long-haul domestic routes (including a non-stop service from Honolulu to Dallas. Aside from domestic aviation, Braniff got heavily involved in providing executive and charter services, particularly for the US military flying troops to Vietnam and other points in Asia.

Braniff had a somewhat discordant image make-over in 1965, thanks to designers Alexander Girard and the Florentine couturier and nobleman Emilio Pucci attempting to refine Braniff as an international airline, while the management culture of the airline was stuck between headquarters in parochial Dallas and the mishmash of other smaller airlines it had acquired throughout the US and the Americas.

Braniff was a latecomer to international aviation, although in the 1940s it was flying to Cuba (since discontinued) and the Panama canal zone. In 1967 it acquired Pan American Grace Airways (PANAGRA) and its fleet of DC-8's that served South America. In 1978, after the deregulation of the aviation industry, Braniff was able to expand overseas in its own right. On December 15, 1978, Braniff introduced thirty-two new routes to sixteen cities, and ordered $925 million worth of new aircraft, including Boeing 727's, 747's and 747SP's. In a frenzy of unparalled expansion at home and abroad, in 1978-79 Braniff Airlines started services to Hong Kong, Guam, Singapore, Brussels, London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt, and also participated in code share services with British Airways and Air France on their trans-Atlantic Concorde flights.

And Braniff collapsed just as quickly. Rising fuel prices and a global recession caused passenger numbers to dwindle at a highly vulnerable time. Losses rose from $44 million at the end of 1979 to $128.5 million in 1981. In 1980 Braniff scaled back most of its international flights. Despite mortgaging its fleet, leasing its Latin American routes to Eastern Airlines and replacing its first class service to something called Texas class, Braniff was unable to service its debts, and on May 12 1982 the airline applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Nowadays, younger people may recall Braniff in the final credits of each South Park episode, and perhaps think Braniff is a film production or distribution company of some variety. In fact when the producers of South Park were developing a pilot episode, they felt it needed some kind of corporate logo in the bumper. Without a corporate entity for themselves, Matt and Trey added barely a second of an old Braniff Airlines commercial with the rifty soundtrack to Cannibal mixed in, assuming that a bankrupt airline cannot sue. In fact another organisation owned the rights to Braniff Airlines corporate identity, but they actually ended up giving authority to the boys to use the logo.

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