If you were responsible for marketing at America West Airlines, you faced a strong headwind as 1990 winded down. The airline industry was going into a tailspin, as business travel plummeted in response to Operation Desert Storm. Fuel prices spiked as the economy slipped into recession. The success of the recent past, your success growing the business, now felt like a heavy chain around your neck. Indeed, 1990 was a banner year for America West, the upstart airline founded by industry veteran Ed Beauvais in 1983. It reached a milestone of $1 billion in revenues. It also became the official airline of the Phoenix Suns basketball team. When the U.S. Department of Transportation recognized America West as a “major airline,” Beauvais’s Phoenix ...

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