Monday, Feb. 08, 2010

ValuJet? What's ValuJet?

Even by the standards of plane crashes, it was a grisly tragedy — a DC-9 carrying 110 people plummeted into the Florida Everglades after a fire broke out onboard in midflight. No one survived the 1996 crash of ValuJet Airlines Flight 592, a disaster that grounded the airline for months and sank the company's public image among nervous travelers. By the end of the next year, though, passengers were again flying ValuJet — even if they didn't realize it. In a corporate disappearing act, the troubled airline bought a smaller rival and adopted its name, becoming AirTran Airways. Overnight, ValuJet shed its sketchy reputation and vaguely unsettling name, which suggested the company might be willing to cut a few corners in order to save a buck. (It also ditched its goofy cartoon logo.) Fortunately for AirTran and its trusting passengers, the image-enhanced airline has not suffered another fatal accident since.