As I sit here writing this there is only one thing on my screen aside from this text document, a Flightradar24.com map tracking N206UW, a Boeing 757-2B7, flying from London’s Heathrow Airport to Philadelphia International Airport … the last US Airways flight, the last time the call sign “Cactus” will be officially used.
I had an on-again-off-again love-hate relationship with US Airways, that started as America West and US Airways merged. In 2005 I was living in Connecticut, working in San Francisco, and while I primarily flew Delta Air Lines, I found myself flying America West … who used the call sign of Cactus … often two or three times a week. I joined America West’s frequent flyer program FlightFund, just as it merged with US Airways’ Dividend Miles. When Delta Air Lines ceased service to New Haven’s Tweed Airport, the airport closest to my home, leaving only US Airways, I often found myself at odds with US Airways, even as a “Chairman” for a year and “Platinum” for another two years. I enjoyed America West, but US Airways not so much, and the divide within the airline once they merged was often obvious. “US East,” originally US Airways was often indifferent to passengers, where as “US West” the former America West was had fantastic customer service. The cultures of the two companies could not have been more difference.
Finding myself on board four US Airways flights a week for more than two years, as annoyed as I was by US Airways, I became fond of hearing the Cactus call sign, which carried over from America West.
At this moment, as I track the flight is passing over the beach in my town. I can hear the sporadic radio chatter and barely catch a glimpse; it is the only aircraft directly overhead. Next time this flight passes by on her journey home to Philadelphia from London, it will be an American Airlines flight, not a Cactus.
Roughly two years after the merger between US Airways and American Airlines, the two airlines are now operating under a single operating certificate as of today and we must say goodbye to US Airways and Cactus.
One more callsign flies off into that long goodnight.
Below is a photo of me enjoying my flight west on America West and a screen shot of the last Cactus flight as it passes over where I live … So Long Cactus.