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#TBT (Throwback Thursday) in Aviation History: Ted Airlines

Photo by Eddie Maloney from North Las Vegas, USA (TED Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ted was formed by United around the same time that Delta was creating their own low cost carrier, Song. The two carriers were similar due to the fact that they were focusing on fighting low cost carriers and offer low fares to leisure destinations.

Both Ted and Song were created around the same time: 2003. However, the airlines they were fighting were different, while Delta created Song to fight with JetBlue in the East, Ted was created to fight Frontier Airlines in Denver.

EXTRA: Throwback Thursday to Song Airlines

Frontier had been expanding for a few years, adding an increase in overall routes and aircraft – slowly taking passengers from Southwest Airlines and United. United wanted a way to gain back passengers, and thus Ted was born. Ted was formed in 2003, the carrier’s first flight wasn’t until February 12, 2004 with the goal to form a hub in Denver and fly to leisure destinations using Airbus A320s.

The airline’s name is just taken from the main company’s name United, dropping the Uni- and leaving just Ted. The carrier’s tulip logo also remained on the tail, but instead of the blue and red, it was changed to a yellow color and was enlarged, taking up the whole tail. Ted was on the fuselage’s forward section and covered the whole forward section between the wings and the forward doors. United’s name appeared on the plane, under the tail registration near the tail and read “Part of United” with the United red and blue tulip following the words.

Ted’s fleet consisted of 57 Airbus A320s that in which most were fairly new. The carrier added more flights and set up secondary hubs at the other United hubs in the west, including Chicago (ORD), San Francisco, and Los Angeles as well as a small amount of service to Washington-Dulles. Ted’s route map ranged from Mexican cities like San Jose del Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun to U.S. leisure destinations such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tampa, Miami and Orlando. Ted aircraft were also easy substitutes for its big brother, often operating on mainline United flight when weather delays or maintenance issues occurred . However, United aircraft could also substitute for Ted aircraft on Ted flight should a Ted aircraft get caught in maintenance problems.

Part of the carrier’s short term success was that the marketing for Ted was very well throughout in that the airline was made to look human, with ads such as “Meet Ted” and “I’ve Met Ted.” The airline also took advantage of being part of United, utilizing key United features such as United’s Mileage Plus program and United’s membership in the Star Alliance. The airline also used United’s Callsign (United), ICAO code (UAL) and IATA code (UA).

Ted saw mild success though it’s five years of operation. However, fuel spikes in the late 2007 and 2008 made it harder for United to operate the brand. In the summer of 2008, United finally realized that Ted was a lost effort, and on June 4, 2008, United announced Ted’s termination. The aircraft would slowly be reincorporated to United’s fleet and allow United to retire their aging fleet of Boeing 737-300s. Ted’s last flight was on January 6, 2009 with the final arrival in Denver. The Airbus A320s were fitted with United First Class cabins and returned to mainline service and are still in operation for mainline United today.

Ian McMurtry


  • 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.

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