Trans World Airlines (TWA) was an American airline from 1925 until it was bought out by and merged with American Airlines in 2001. It was a major airline in the United States and the main U.S.-based competitor of Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) on intercontinental routes from 1946 until deregulation in 1978. TWA had hubs at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport and focus cities in Kansas City, Los Angeles, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the 1980s it built a hub in Atlanta, reduced in the 1990s. TWA had pilot bases in Frankfurt and Berlin during the 1980s and it operated Boeing 727-100 type aircraft within Europe. The company flew intra-European routes between Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Zurich, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Vienna, Amsterdam and Istanbul.
Flying to most major U.S. cities, TWA was one of the largest domestic airlines; before deregulation TWA, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Eastern Air Lines were known as the "Big Four". It also had a feeder operation from smaller cities in the Midwestern United States. Beyond the U.S., TWA had a large European and Middle Eastern network, served from its hub, the iconic TWA Flight Center, at John F. Kennedy International Airport. For a few years its routes circumnavigated the globe. It was a secondary unofficial flag carrier for the United States, especially after Pan Am was dissolved in the early 1990s
TWA's corporate history dates from the July 16, 1930, forced merger of Transcontinental Air Transport (T-A-T) and Western Air Express to form Transcontinental & Western Air (T&WA). The companies merged at the urging of Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown, who was looking for bigger airlines to give airmail contracts.
Both airlines brought high-profile aviation pioneers who would give the airline the panache of being called "The Airline Run by Flyers." The airlines would be known for several years as being on the cutting edge of aviation. Transcontinental, the bigger of the two, had the marquee expertise of Charles Lindbergh and was already offering a 48-hour combination of plane and train trip across the United States. Western, which was slightly older having been founded in 1925, had the expertise of Jack Frye.
On October 25, 1930, the airline offered one of the first all-plane scheduled service from coast to coast: the Lindbergh Route. The route took 36 hours and initially called for overnights in Kansas City. In summer 1931, TWA moved its headquarters from New York to Kansas City, Missouri.