HUNTINGTON — Unhappy passengers frequently shook their heads in dismay and referred to it as "Agony Airlines." But over a 50-plus year period, thousands of passengers, whether they liked it or not, found themselves flying Allegheny Airlines between Huntington's Tri-State Airport and Pittsburgh International.
When Tri-State was dedicated in November 1952, it initially was served by three airlines - Eastern, Piedmont and Allegheny. All three have since flown into aviation history. Eastern went bankrupt. Allegheny rebranded itself as USAir and later USAirways as it acquired other airlines, including Piedmont. In 2013, in perhaps the nation's last big airline merger, USAirways and American Airlines merged, with USAirways management running the combined operations.
Allegheny Airlines began as the All-American Aviation Company, a regional mail delivery carrier founded by two brothers from the legendary du Pont family, Richard C. du Pont and Alexis Felix du Pont Jr. In 1949, the company was renamed All American Airways as it switched from air mail to passenger service. On Jan. 1, 1953, it was again renamed, this time to Allegheny Airlines.
Allegheny began flying between Tri-State Airport and Pittsburgh in June 1953, just seven months after Tri-State opened.
By 2004, US Airways Express - the airline's affiliated regional carrier - was scheduling three round trips a day between Tri-State and Pittsburgh, although some of those flights frequently were scrubbed due to crew shortages and other unspecified reasons. That summer saw the airline cut its Huntington service to one flight a day and then eliminate it entirely.
When the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Huntington Area Development Council (HADCO) and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., asked Allegheny to reconsider, it declined to do so. And so Huntington was left without air service to Pittsburgh for the first time in more than 50 years.