"Nerd Bird" Grounded

American Airlines canceling San Jose-Austin flight in August

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, Jun 16, 2009  |  Updated 1:30 PM PDT
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A Lousy Time to Build a Great Airport?

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The "nerd bird" from San Jose to Austin will be canceled by American Airlines.

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American Airlines has nixed its two daily direct flights from San Jose Mineta Airport to Austin's airport, on its schedule since 1992, even as San Jose opens a sparkling new terminal.

The connection between the two hubs of technology carried so many employees of Sun, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other high-tech companies it was nicknamed "the nerd bird."

But with airlines falling on hard times and the country in the grip of a recession, American's move says less about the health of the computing industry than it does about airlines.

Discount carrier Southwest Airlines runs a direct connection between Oakland International and Austin daily -- popular during the annual nerd spring break otherwise known as South By Southwest Interactive. United and JetBlue offer nonstops from SFO to Austin.

But none of those flights have the charm of a takeoff path which flits over the office parks of Silicon Valley.

Executives at companies like Google have amassed their own fleet of private aircraft, including 737s complete with couches and king sized-beds. Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have even arranged their own private hangar at Moffett Field in Mountain View.

So goodbye, nerd bird and hello party plane.

Jackson West typically flies the "Antitrust Investigation" route between San Francisco and Seattle.

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