Trunk Airlines Explained
The term ‘trunk airline’ dates back to the beginning of scheduled passenger flights in the US in the 1930s.It was used as a generic term to describe common airlines that were authorized to provide interstate service by The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938.
Trunk airlines provided scheduled domestic and, in some cases, international air service. In 1938, there were 15 recognised trunk airlines operating within America. The big four were American Airlines, Eastern Air Lines, Trans World Airlines, and United Airlines.
The term can be traced through the early decades of airline deregulation - following the Airline Deregulation Act passed by Congress in 1978. From the early 21st century, these major airline corporations began to be known as major airlines, or ‘legacy carriers’.
Following a number of mergers and bankruptcies, there are three of the original trunk carriers left: United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.