TBT (Throwback Thursday) in Aviation History: USA 3000

Photo provided by Ian McMurtry

USA 3000, originally known as Brendan Airways, was a small airline formed in 2001 as a way of flying cheap flights from the northeast to the Caribbean. USA3000 officially launched on December 28, 2001 with their first flight from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Cancun, Mexico. USA3000 did most of their early work as charters, mostly for vacation service company Apple Vacations. USA3000’s fleet started with one Airbus A320.

USA3000 immediately became a smash hit and by the end of their first year of operations they had tripled their fleet to three Airbus A320s, including one A320 specifically based at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The airline added routes to other Caribbean destinations including San Juan, Puerto Rico and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The airline continued to add brand new Airbus A320s that were leased from GECAS and Thomas Cook Airlines. The airline would peak with 14 aircraft in late 2008 to early 2009 and had the youngest fleet in America at one point.

USA3000 added more destinations in the Midwest as well as adding southeastern destinations. USA3000 would start routes to St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. The airline would peak with 41 destinations including 25 destinations in the United States and 6 destinations in Mexico. Most routes were served once or twice a week due to the small fleet that USA3000 had.

The airline used advertising as a way to gain revenue in by selling their tails as billboards. Certain aircraft did have sponsorships such as Dreams Resort & Spa (N262AV), For Your Entertainment and Miami Vice (N265AV) and Bermuda Tourism (N264AV). The airline would keep its traditional navy and white scheme separated with red stripe on the fuselage, only the tail would contain the advertisement. Aircraft that did not have advertisements wore the traditional scheme with the words USA3000 ascending the tail.

USA 3000 2
A USA 3000 Airbus A320 taxis to the active runway at STL on a snowy winter day. | Photo provided by Ian McMurtry

However, while USA3000 had been adding routes and adding planes, other discount carriers had started routes to compete with USA3000. The airline started to lose money in 2009 and as a result started to cut it’s fleet as well as its route map. By 2011 the airline’s fleet had dwindled to 5 Airbus A320s and had cut all services to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Detroit. The airline had lost all alternate charter service outside of Apple Vacations and was losing more and more money each year.

By November of 2011 majority owner Apple Vacations decided to dissolve USA3000 instead of claim bankruptcy. Apple Vacations would rely on other carriers such as Frontier Airlines and AeroMexico to carry out the Apple Vacation flights. Apple Vacations chose the route of dissolving the carrier over bankruptcy to allow the flight crews time to find new jobs at other airlines. USA3000’s last scheduled flight was between Cancun and St. Louis on January 30, 2012. The flight was transitioned to Frontier Airlines the next day.

Most of USA3000s Airbus A320s found new homes after the airline disbanded. Most went to Ural Airlines in Europe but also some found new homes with VivaAeroBus in Colombia as well as Frontier Airlines inheriting a few A320s to add to their growing fleet. Apple Vacations continues to fly most of the routes that USA3000 once flew, nowadays using Frontier, AeroMexico, Miami Air, and Alaska Airlines on the routes.


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Ian McMurtry

Although Ian McMurtry was never originally an avgeek, he did enjoy watching US Airways aircraft across western Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. He lived along the Pennsylvania Railroad and took a liking to trains but a change of scenery in the mid-2000s saw him shift more of an interest into aviation. He would eventually express this passion by taking flying lessons in mid-Missouri and joining AirlineGeeks in 2013. Now living in Wichita, Kansas, Ian is in college majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in business administration at Wichita State University.
Ian McMurtry