After the success of Southwest Airlines in Texas, former president Marion Lamar Muse decided to found a new airline in the Lone Star state. The new airline was created in Dallas in 1981, and carried the name Muse Air after its president.
Muse choose the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 as the primary aircraft for the airline, with Dallas Love being its primary base for operations to Houston Hobby. Almost immediately after taking off, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike of 1981 hit the U.S. skies, causing mass cancellations that not only affecting Muse Air, but the entire country.
Marion Muse surprisingly decided a year after the airline started operations to step down, and chose his son Michael to replace him. Michael was already involved in the airline, and had previously worked with his father at Southwest.
The airline expanded throughout Texas, serving cities like Austin, Midland, and Odessa. Routes focused across the southern United States, serving cities from Los Angeles to Miami. One unique feature of Muse Air was the decision to make the airline smoke-free before federal law banned smoking. The ban lasted four years before the decision was made to revoke the rule.
In 1984, after expanding rapidly, the airline was struggling financially. Harold Simmons, CEO of Amalgamated Sugar Company, decided to invest in the airline. The one condition of his investment was the Michael would step down as CEO and his father would replace him. Despite the new investment and the return of Marion as CEO, the airline continued to struggle.
The airline also decided to add the older brother of the MD-80, the DC-9, to its fleet. In 1984, the airline entered a partnership with AirCal, allowing Muse Air passengers to transfer to AirCal flights and AirCal passengers to transfer to Muse Air flights. Connections were offered in Los Angeles and Ontario.
In 1985, after several years of competing in Dallas, Southwest Airlines decided to purchase Muse Air. The Southwest leadership decided to continue operating Muse Air as a separate airline. Marion Muse was removed from his leadership role, and the company went through a restructuring period. Routes became focused from Houston Hobby rather than Dallas Love.
Less than a year after the acquisition, Southwest decided to rebrand the airline, changing the name from Muse Air to TranStar Airlines. The branding was changed completely, with Muse Air’s beige color scheme being replaced with a dark blue. The focus of the airline became flights to Florida, Nevada, and California via its Texas hub, and a new focus city in New Orleans.
In 1987 the airline was still not making a profit, despite Southwest’s ownership, leaving the group with no choice other than to shut the airline down. Muse Air faced many struggles under Southwest, particularly with attempts to integrate the pilot groups, with seniority was the main issue. The airline’s fleet of Douglas and McDonnell-Douglas aircraft also clashed with Southwest’s all Boeing fleet, which raised costs for the airline.