What aircraft did Vanguard Airlines operate?

Before we take a look at the Missouri-based Vanguard Airlines planes in its fleet, let’s first learn a bit more about the airline. Founded in 1994 as a low-cost airline, Vanguard’s business plan centered on cutting costs from major carriers and offering lower fares to its customers.

While a regular, pre-booked, one-way fare of $29 was pretty standard, Vanguard also offered super low fares of just $10 one-way. However, by the time Vanguard began operations, most major airlines had learned to deal with competition, which made it difficult for new low-cost start-ups to be profitable.

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Vanguard Airlines has grown rapidly

In its second year of operation, Vanguard offered scheduled nonstop flights from its Kansas City hub to the following airports:

Vanguard Airlines also offered a flight from Kansas City to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) in Utah via a short stopover in Denver. During the first years of operation, all Vanguard Airlines flights were on Boeing 737-200s with a single economy class configuration. A year later, in the summer of 1995, Vanguard added more destinations from Kansas City, including:


  • Des Moines International Airport (DSM)
  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Wichita National Airport (ICT)

Vanguard started flying from Chicago Midway

At the same time, Vanguard Airlines also began flying between Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) and Minneapolis/St. Paul. A year later, in 1996, Vanguard began flying between Kansas City and California with nonstop flights to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

Over time, Vanguard has increased its flight out of Chicago Midway, making it a secondary hub to Kansas City. Now adding and removing routes based on profitability, and by 2000 Vanguard Airlines had outsourced its reservations to a call center in Mission, Kansas operated by Dakotah Reservations, primarily using college students attending the University of Kansas .


9/11 changed everything for Vanguard

Along with outsourcing reservations, Vanguard was also looking to move away from its low-cost, low-cost model and become an airline that offered more than low-cost tickets. The move worked and Vanguard reaped the rewards with improved operational and financial performance.

In the summer of 2001, Vanguard Airlines had its best year, but everything changed after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. With a sharp drop in the number of people flying, Vanguard cut executive pay by 25%, laid off 20% of its workforce, and put the rest on a 32-hour week. Additionally, to brighten up its image, Vanguard added McDonnell Douglas MD-80 Series aircraft to its fleet and a colorful new livery reminiscent of the way Braniff painted its planes.


Although business began to pick up in the summer of 2002, Vanguard still had $80 million in debt, and credit card companies feared they would lose money if the airline went bankrupt. The airline’s financial situation was unsustainable, and on July 29, 2002, Vanguard Airlines ceased operations.

During its brief seven years of operation, Vanguard Airlines operated a fleet consisting of the following aircraft:

  • 25 Boeing 737-200s
  • 2 Boeing 737-300QCs
  • 10 McDonnell Douglas MD-80

Have you ever flown with Vanguard? Let us know in the comments.

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