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RIP, Nerd Bird

The economic slowdown claims another victim.

When the Statesman’s business desk got a tip from a reader that American Airlines was grounding the Nerd Bird, I was more than a little dubious.

The twice-a-day nonstop flight between Austin and San Jose, Calif., is more than just a convenient way for engineers, executives, salespeople and marketers to get to Silicon Valley. It’s something of an Austin high-tech institution, and its demise seemed unfathomable.

Since the first Nerd Bird took off in October 1992, the 3½-hour trip had become a place for techies to swap résumés and rumors, make new contacts, rehearse sales pitches and, on occasion, surreptitiously read what’s on a competitor’s laptop screen.

“The beauty of the Nerd Bird is, you get on, and you never know who you’re going to see, who you’ll meet, what you’ll learn,” says Steve Vandegrift, a longtime Austin software entrepreneur and co-founder of Internet startup who has taken the flight numerous times over the years. “It’s like a full Rolodex of connections every flight.”

But now the ride is coming to an end. American confirmed it is discontinuing the flight, citing the recession and a slowdown in business travel. The Nerd Bird will stop flying Aug. 25.

Spokesman Tim Smith said the route might return one day, “but we’re not in a position to promise it.”

Man, I don’t even live in Austin and that bums me out. I’ve got a lot of friends who have taken that flight a bunch of times. For their sake, at least, I hope this does come back some day.

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One Comment

  1. Thomas says:

    The Nerd Bird isn’t going away; Alaska Airlines will pick up the route once American drops it.