Managers at California’s Pacific Southwest Airlines or PSA had a problem. Traffic on their route between Los Angeles and San Francisco was growing rapidly and at peak times ground congestion was hurting the schedule. The solution? The PSA Lockheed L-1011 TriStar purchase.
While operating a large widebody aircraft on such a short route might seem crazy today, at the time it seemed to be a sensible solution. With seating for 281 passengers on the main deck, the extra capacity would be useful to serve the demand.
A Lounge Instead Of Cargo
With the route being so short, the TriStar’s underfloor cargo carrying capacity wasn’t entirely needed. Both the forward cargo compartment and the underfloor galley were replaced by a 16 seat lounge and a carry-on baggage storage area.
The area was accessible from the main deck via stairs. In addition, an external passenger door complete with integral air stairs was also provided, so people could board from the ground.
PSA made a deal with Lockheed to lease the first two aircraft from delivery in 1974 through to 1989. Three other L-1011s were to be delivered by the end of 1975 and owned by the California state airline.
Inside The PSA Lockheed TriStar Lounge
Since the lounge on the PSA Lockheed TriStar was situated where cargo would usually be, there were no windows for passengers to see out. Instead, they could look at each other and the trendy early 1970s decor!
I can’t imagine how much use there would be for the lounge on such a short flight. By the time you were in the air, it would be almost time to start descending for landing.
PSA’s Short Service History
The first aircraft entered service on 1 August 1974, with the second following on 18 October the same year. In the period between order and delivery, fuel had increased markedly from 9-11c per gallon to 33c per gallon, plus there was a drop in traffic in California by 10%.
This resulted in both being withdrawn from service on 31 March 1975 after just eight months in service. Eventually those two went to AeroPerú and then Worldways Canada. The other three were built by Lockheed and never entered service with PSA. These went to German charter operator LTU International Airways in 1978.
What would have happened had the 1973 oil crisis never happened? We may have seen Concorde delivered to other airlines for one, and perhaps the PSA Lockheed TriStar would have had a longer life as well. Who knows!
The PSA slogan at the time, “Catch Our Smile”, is why all their aircraft were painted with a smile under the cockpit windows. The planes were referred to as “Grinningbirds” and the L-1011 was, perhaps inevitably, “Mother Grinningbird”. PSA itself was eventually taken over by USAir in 1988.
Did you ever get a chance to experience the PSA Lockheed TriStar lounge? Do you remember anything about it? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image by Donald Von Raesfeld on Flickr.
Lounge images via “Smiling Widebodies: PSA’s Tristar Gamble” on Yesterday’s Airlines.
Airstairs opening picture via Pinterest.
L-1011 with stairs via Pinterest.
Head on smile by Piergiuliano Chesi via Wikimedia Commons.
Thanks also to Jon Proctor’s article “PSA’s TriStars”.
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Wow, I had no idea. What a great post.
Thank you very much!
It would be interesting to know how lounge access was achieved. First come first served? PSA never had First Class or Business Class. Most of their routes at the time were around 60-90 minutes, gate to gate, though I assume the TriStars were relegated to the LAX-SFO route exclusively. It seemed like a cool idea at the time, but maybe PSA was the wrong airline to offer that. Sweet concept though.
That’s a really good point, you know. Perhaps everyone had access to go down there and get a drink, or maybe it was a supplement. Perhaps someone reading this will be able to shed some light on the matter. I know if I was flying on it, I’d be heading straight for the lounge to check it out as soon as the seatbelt sign was off. They flew from San Diego each morning to LAX or SFO, then did rotations between those two cities, then went back to San Diego for the night. Definitely a great concept, but PSA took… Read more »
I wonder if it got ANY use on the SAN-LAX segment? Seems like a great place for crews to deadhead, if they were allowed down there during take-offs/landings. So many questions! Maybe take this topic over to airliners.net? A few old PSA/San Diego people over there who might have some answers.
I’m certain there’ll be someone on there who will know. There usually is 🙂
The lounge was for staff only and plenty big enough for all.