Eastern Air Lines

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Eastern Air Lines
IATA
EA
ICAO
EAL
Callsign
EASTERN
Founded1926 (as Pitcairn Aviation)
Ceased operationsJanuary 18, 1991
Hubs
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programOnePass
Airport loungeIonosphere Club
Fleet size304
Destinations140
Company sloganThe wings of man, We earn our wings every day, Number one to the sun, We've got your sunshine, America's favorite way to fly, Official airline of the Tampa Bay Bucs and See how much better an airline can be
Parent companyEastern Air Lines, Inc. (Texas Air Corporation)
HeadquartersNew York City
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Key peopleEddie Rickenbacker (First CEO)
Floyd Hall
Frank Borman
Frank Lorenzo Martin Shugrue
 
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Eastern Air Lines
IATA
EA
ICAO
EAL
Callsign
EASTERN
Founded1926 (as Pitcairn Aviation)
Ceased operationsJanuary 18, 1991
Hubs
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programOnePass
Airport loungeIonosphere Club
Fleet size304
Destinations140
Company sloganThe wings of man, We earn our wings every day, Number one to the sun, We've got your sunshine, America's favorite way to fly, Official airline of the Tampa Bay Bucs and See how much better an airline can be
Parent companyEastern Air Lines, Inc. (Texas Air Corporation)
HeadquartersNew York City
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Key peopleEddie Rickenbacker (First CEO)
Floyd Hall
Frank Borman
Frank Lorenzo Martin Shugrue

Eastern Air Lines was a major United States airline from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida.[1] There were plans to restart the airline in 2008.[2]

Contents

History

Origins

The Great Silver Fleet (1939)

Eastern Air Lines was a composite of assorted air travel corporations, including Florida Airways and Pitcairn Aviation, the latter established on April 19, 1926, by Harold Frederick Pitcairn, son of Pittsburgh Plate Glass founder John Pitcairn, Jr.

Pitcairn Aviation's PA-7S CAM-19 Route Airmail aircraft

In the late 1920s Pitcairn Aviation won a contract to fly mail between New York City and Atlanta, Georgia on Mailwing single-engine aircraft. In 1929 Clement Keys, the owner of North American Aviation, purchased Pitcairn. In 1930 Keys changed the company's name to Eastern Air Transport, soon to be known as Eastern Air Lines after being purchased by General Motors and experiencing a change in leadership after the Airmail Act of 1934.[3]

Growth under Rickenbacker

In 1938 the airline was purchased by World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker from General Motors. The complex deal was concluded when Rickenbacker presented Alfred P. Sloan with a certified check for $3.5 million. Rickenbacker pushed Eastern into a period of prodigious growth and innovation. For a time, Eastern was the most profitable airline in the post-war era, never needing state subsidy. In the late 1950s Eastern's position was eroded by state subsidies to rival airlines, increasing industry regulation and the arrival of the jet age. Rickenbacker's position as CEO was taken over by Malcolm A. MacIntyre, 'a brilliant lawyer but a man inexperienced in airline operations'.[4] on October 1, 1959. His ouster was due largely to his reluctance to acquire jets, feeling that they were unnecessary and expensive. A new management team headed by Floyd D. Hall took over the operation on 16 December 1963, and Rickenbacker left his position as Director and Chairman of the Board on December 31, 1963, aged 73.[4]

By the 1950s, Eastern's aircraft were prominent up and down the East Coast of the United States. In 1956 the airline purchased Canadian airline Colonial Airlines, which gave the airline its first service to Canada.[5]

The Jet Age

In November 1959 Eastern Air Lines opened its Chester L. Churchill-designed Terminal 1 at New York City's Idlewild International Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport). In 1960 Eastern's first jets, Douglas DC-8-21s, started to take over the longer flights, like the non-stops from Chicago and New York to Miami. The DC-8s were joined in 1962 by the Boeing 720 and in 1964 by the Boeing 727, which Eastern (along with American, and United) had helped Boeing develop. Eastern was the first airline to fly the 727 on February 1, 1964 (The 727 became the fastest selling airliner in the world). Shortly after that "Captain Eddie" Rickenbacker retired and a new image was adopted, which included the now famous hockey stick design which is officially Caribbean Blue over Ionosphere Blue. Eastern was also the first US carrier to fly the Airbus A300[6] and the launch customer for the Boeing 757.[7]

An Eastern Air Lines DC-3, on display in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
An Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-649 Constellation with a "Speedpak".
An Eastern Air Lines Electra at Washington National Airport in 1975.

On April 30, 1961 Eastern inaugurated the Eastern Air Shuttle. Initially 95-seat 1049s and 1049Cs left New York-LaGuardia every two hours, 8 AM to 10 PM, to Washington National and to Boston.[8] Flights soon became hourly, 7 AM to 10 PM out of each city.

The Shuttle emphasized convenience and simplicity—revolutionary in an era when air travel was considered a luxury. Reservations were not needed, seat assignments were not given, and initially no check-in was required and no boarding passes were issued. But Eastern guaranteed everyone a seat; if the flight filled, another aircraft was ready to go. On Sunday after Thanksgiving 1961 the 10 PM flight between La Guardia and Boston carried 623 passengers.[9]

The Shuttle peaked in January 1963, when weekdays saw hourly Super Constellations 7 AM to 10 PM each way LGA-BOS and LGA-DCA, hourly DC-7Bs 7:30 to 10:30 each way EWR-BOS, DC-7Bs every two hours 7:30 to 7:30 each way EWR-DCA and five DC-7Bs each way DCA-BOS.

Fare in May 1961 was $10.95 to Boston and $12.75 to Washington, slightly below regular coach fare (passengers could pay in cash after boarding, so the fares soon dropped a few cents to $12 and $14 including the 10% federal tax). Electras started Shuttle flights in 1965 (the last Constellation flights were in 1968) and became backups to 727s or DC-9s a few years later.

Eastern Air Shuttle's landing rights and some aircraft were bought by Trump Airlines to run the Trump Shuttle. US Airways later bought the service from Trump Airlines and named it US Airways Shuttle. Pan Am's shuttle service was bought by Delta Air Lines to become the Delta Shuttle, which competes with the US Airways Shuttle.

Internationalization began as Eastern opened routes to markets such as Santo Domingo and Nassau, Bahamas. Services from San Juan, Puerto Rico's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport were expanded.

Eastern bought the Lockheed L-1011 and Airbus A300 widebody jets; the former would become known in the Caribbean as El Grandote (the huge one). Boeing 747s, leased from Pan Am in 1970/71 operated between Chicago and San Juan as well as New York to Miami and San Juan. Although Eastern purchased four 747s, they were sold to Trans World Airlines (TWA), before delivery.

Logo on an Eastern Air Lines DC-3

Just before Walt Disney World opened in 1971 Eastern became its "official airline", which proved beneficial for Eastern as well as Disney. It remained the official airline of Walt Disney World, which even had an Eastern-themed ride at its park (If You Had Wings in Tomorrowland where Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is currently located), until its contracting route network forced Disney to switch to Delta shortly before Eastern's 1989 bankruptcy filing. The ride was subsequently rethemed.

The famous "Wings of Man" campaign in the late 1960s was created by advertising agency Young & Rubicam, and restored Eastern's tarnished image until the late 1970s, when former astronaut Frank Borman became president and it was replaced by a new campaign, "We Have To Earn Our Wings Every Day". The new campaign, which featured Borman as a spokesperson, was used until the mid-to-late 1980s.

Under bankruptcy, Eastern launched a "100 Days" campaign, in which it promised to "become a little bit better every day".

Turmoil

Douglas DC-8-21 of Eastern at Miami International Airport in 1970
Eastern Airbus A300 at Sint Maarten in 1986.

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 aggravated its position, forcing Eastern into a competitive low-fare environment in which its high cost of operation put the airline at a decided disadvantage.

In 1975 Eastern was headquartered at 10 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.[10] After Frank Borman became president of Eastern Air Lines in 1975, he moved Eastern's headquarters from Rockefeller Center to Miami-Dade County, Florida.[11]

Eastern's massive Atlanta hub placed it in direct competition with Delta Air Lines, where both carriers competed heavily with one another to neither's benefit. Delta's less-unionized work force and slowly expanding international route network helped lead it through the turbulent period following deregulation in 1978.

In 1980, a Caribbean hub was inaugurated at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (known at the time as "Isla Verde International Airport") near San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1982, Eastern acquired Braniff's South American route network. By 1985 Eastern was the largest airline in the world in terms of passengers enplaned and operated in 26 countries on three continents.

During this era, Eastern's fleet was split between their "silver-colored hockey stick" livery (the lack of paint reduced weight by 100 pounds) and their "white-colored hockey stick" livery (on its Airbus-manufactured planes, the metallurgy of which required paint to cover the aircraft's composite skin panels).

In 1983 Eastern became the launch customer of Boeing's new 757, which was ordered in 1978. Borman felt that its low cost of operation would make it an invaluable asset to the airline in the years to come. However, higher oil prices failed to materialize and the debt created by this purchase coupled with the Airbus A300 purchases made in 1977 proved to be a millstone around Eastern's neck, contributing to the February 1986 sale to Frank Lorenzo's Texas Air. At that time, Eastern was paying over $700,000 in interest each day before they sold a ticket, fueled or boarded a single aircraft.

In the mid-1980s, Eastern needed an aircraft for the Miami-London Route. They ultimately purchased three DC-10-30s from Alitalia, since none of the existing aircraft in the fleet had an adequate range. After the Miami-London route was dropped, due to cited unprofitibility, the DC-10s were primarily used for long-haul flights from Miami to Buenos Aires.

An Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011 "Whisperliner"

In that same year, Eastern reintroduced service to Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, using de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter planes under the name Eastern Metro Express. The Eastern Metro Express operation wasn't limited to Mayagüez, as it began service from its San Juan hub to other airports in Puerto Rico and several other smaller Caribbean islands. Also, from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, it served numerous feeder cities. Bar Harbor Airlines serving as Eastern Express spoked from Miami International Airport to many cities around the southeast.

Eastern began losing money as it faced competition from no-frills airlines, such as People Express, which offered drastically reduced air fares. In an attempt to differentiate itself from its bargain competitors, Eastern began a marketing campaign stressing its quality of service and its rank of highly experienced pilots.

Unable to keep up, Borman agreed to the sale of the airline in 1986 to Texas Air, led by Frank Lorenzo. Lorenzo (who was named as one of Time Magazine's 10 "worst bosses of the century") was known as a ruthless corporate raider and union buster. He had already purchased Continental and lost a bidding war for TWA to Carl Icahn.

In February 1987, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed a $9.5 million fine against Eastern Air Lines for safety violations,[12] which was the largest fine ever assessed against an airline until American Airlines was fined $24.2 million in 2010.[13]

In the 1980s Eastern offered "Moonlight Specials," where the airline offered passenger seats on overnight services that were profitable due to cargo from thirty freight companies. The special flights, which operated between midnight and 7 am, stopped at 18 cities in the United States. Eric Scmitt of The New York Times said that the services were "a hybrid of late-night, red-eye flights and the barebones, People Express approach to service." The holds of the aircraft were reserved for cargo such as express mail, machine tool parts, and textiles. Because of this the airline allowed each passenger to take up to two carry on bags. The airline charged $10 for each bag of checked luggage, which was shipped standby. The airline charged between 50 cents and $3 for beverages and snacks. Bunny Duck, an Eastern flight attendant quoted in The New York Times, said that the passengers on the special flights were "a cross section of families, college kids, illegal aliens and weirdos from L.A."[14]

In 1988 Phil Bakes, the president of Eastern Air Lines, announced plans to lay off 4,000 employees and eliminate and reduce service to airports in the Western United States; he said that the airline was going "back to our roots" in the East Coast of the United States. At the time Eastern was the largest corporate employer in the Miami area, and remained so after the cuts. John Nordheimer wrote in a The New York Times article that the prominence of Eastern in the Miami area decreased as the city became a finance and trade center and as the area had a population increase-based economic growth, instead of a purely tourism-based growth.[15]

Although Eastern's employees saw Lorenzo at the time as a savior, he would prove to be anything but a hero to the employees by the end of the decade. This event is widely seen as the beginning of the unwinding of the company, and the beginning of a steep decline into a period that saw strikes, empty planes, mass layoffs, bankruptcy, and eventually a ceasing of operations.

During Lorenzo's tenure, Eastern was crippled by severe labor unrest. Asked to accept deep cuts in pay and benefits, on March 4, 1989, Frank Lorenzo locked out Eastern's mechanics and ramp service employees, represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). Concerned that if Lorenzo was successful in breaking the IAM he would do the same to the pilots' and flight attendants' unions, the pilots represented by Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and flight attendants represented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) called a sympathy strike. Those actions effectively shut down the airline's domestic operations. Non-contract employees, including airport gate and ticket counter agents and reservation sales agents, did not honor the strike. Due to the lockout and sympathy strike flights were canceled, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.[citation needed]

Lorenzo seriously considered a sale of Eastern to Peter Ueberroth immediately following the lockout. Issues over interim management while the sale was being processed eventually caused the deal to fall through. Although other buyers, such as Jay Pritzker expressed interest in the airline, Lorenzo eventually declared Eastern as being "not for sale".[16]

Lorenzo sold Eastern's shuttle service to real estate magnate Donald Trump in 1989, under whom it became the Trump Shuttle, while selling other parts of Eastern to his Texas Air holding company and its major subsidiary, Continental Airlines, at terms disadvantageous to Eastern.[citation needed] In 1989, George Berry, the Georgia Industry and Trade Commissioner, asked Eastern to consider moving its headquarters from the Miami area to the Atlanta area.[17]

As a result of the strike, weakened airline structure, high fuel prices, inability to compete after deregulation and other financial problems, Eastern filed for bankruptcy protection on March 9, 1989.[18] This gave Lorenzo breathing room, and allowed him to continue operating the airline with non-union employees. When control of the airline was taken away from Lorenzo by the courts and given to Marty Shugrue, it continued operations in an attempt to correct its cash flow, but to no avail.[19]

The management in the Miami-Dade county headquarters agreed to shut down Eastern. The airline stopped flying at midnight Saturday, January 19, 1991. During the previous evening reservation agents continued to take reservations and told callers that the airline was not closing. They were unaware of the shutdown decision. After the announcement, 5,000 of the 18,000 employees immediately lost their jobs. Of the remaining employees, reservation agents were told to report to work at their regular times, while other employees were told not to report to work unless specifically asked to do so. At the time many of Eastern's employees lived in the Atlanta, Miami, and New York City areas.[20]

As a result of the Eastern shutdown, many airline industry jobs were eliminated in the Miami and New York City areas.[21]

An asset liquidation sale was commenced later that year and provided Eastern's creditors with a payout.[citation needed]

Some of Eastern's former pilots helped found Kiwi International Air Lines.

From 1991 to present, Airline Acquisition Corporation of Atlanta, Ga., led by former Eastern pilots Milton Shlapak and John Ruths, plan to restart Eastern Air Lines and locate its headquarters in Philadelphia. This was planned with the aid of the son of the founder of Eastern, Stephen Pitcairn, who has since passed away.[22] This has not happened yet, and for many years the Eastern name was not used for any airline around the world, until the UK regional airline with 35 planes, Air Kilroe Limited, started trading as Eastern Airways.[23]

Revenue Passenger-Miles (Millions)(Sched Service Only)
EasternCaribairMackeyMidetColonial
195116308--94
195535831181129
196047642722(merged Mackey)(merged EA)
196579567441
197014671107(merged EA)
197518169(merged)

Destinations

Fleet

An Eastern Air Lines Airbus A300B4-100 at Miami International Airport. (1990)
An Eastern Air Lines Boeing 727-200 Advanced at Miami International Airport. (1990)
An Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011-1 at Miami International Airport. (1989)

Eastern Air Lines flew many different types of aircraft throughout its history:

Notable accidents

Eastern weathered crashes over the years of varying damage to the company and passenger injuries and deaths. Some of the crashes contributed to the future safety of American air transportation, such as Eastern's first accident caused by the construction of temporary utility poles at the end of a runway.[citation needed]

Flight 601

References

Notes
  1. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 30, 1985. 72." Retrieved on June 17, 2009.
  2. ^ "bizjournal." New airline could have famous name. April 14,2008
  3. ^ Smith, F. (1982). Legacy of Wings: The Story of Harold F. Pitcairn. Jason Aronson / T.D. Associates. (June 1982)
  4. ^ a b Rickenbacker, 1967
  5. ^ Eastern Air Lines History
  6. ^ "Eastern to study Airbus buy". The Pittsburgh Press. 11 May 1977. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1144&dat=19770511&id=yIAqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ZlcEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3287,4831250. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Commercial Airplanes". Boeing Company. http://www.boeing.com/commercial/757family/pf/pf_200back.html. Retrieved June 26, 2011. 
  8. ^ Thomas Petzinger, Hard landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits that Plunged the Airlines into Chaos (Random House, 1996)
  9. ^ Flight 1 March 1962 p316
  10. ^ World Airline Directory. Flight International. March 20, 1975. "484. Retrieved on October 3, 2009.
  11. ^ Bernstein, Aaron. Grounded: Frank Lorenzo and the Destruction of Eastern Airlines. Beard Books, 1999. p. 22. 22. Retrieved on August 28, 2009.
  12. ^ "EASTERN WILL PAY $9.5M FINE." Associated Press, Washington D.C., 11 February 1987. Retrieved on 2010-03-16.
  13. ^ "Record $24.2 million fine proposed for American Airlines." Reuters, Washington D.C., 26 Aug. 2010. Retrieved on 2010-08-26.
  14. ^ Schmitt, Eric. "OVERNIGHT FLIGHT - BARGAIN FOR SPONTANEOUS FLYERS" New York Times, 9 March 1987. Retrieved on 2010-04-30.
  15. ^ Nordheimer, John. "Cuts by Eastern Shaking Miami In Many Ways." The New York Times. Sunday July 24, 1988. New York Edition Section 1, Page 14. Retrieved on August 28, 2009.
  16. ^ Robinson 1992. pp 47-51.
  17. ^ "Stock market pulls out of dive Series: Business Digest." St. Petersburg Times. June 23, 1989. Business 1E. Retrieved on August 28, 2009.
  18. ^ Bernstein, Aaron (1990). Grounded: Frank Lorenzo and the Destruction of Eastern Airlines. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 166. ISBN 0-671-69538-X. 
  19. ^ "Eastern looks better with Lorenzo gone". Boca Raton News. 20 April 1990. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1291&dat=19900420&id=eRdUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JY0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=5814,1592666. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  20. ^ Salpukas, Agis. "Eastern Airlines Is Shutting Down And Plans to Liquidate Its Assets." The New York Times. Saturday January 19, 1991. 1. Retrieved on August 28, 2009.
  21. ^ Salpukas, Agis. "Its Cash Depleted, Pan Am Shuts." The New York Times. Thursday December 5, 1991. Retrieved on August 28, 2009.
  22. ^ "EASTERN MAKING COMEBACK NEW HEADQUARTERS IN CITY COULD BRING 1,000 JOBS." Philadelphia Daily News. June 24, 1994. 53 Business Moneytalk. Retrieved on August 28, 2009.
  23. ^ http://www.airreview.com/AirSW/index.htm
  24. ^ http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19450712-0
  25. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19510719-0. Retrieved 11 March 2010. 
  26. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19531019-0. Retrieved 11 March 2010. 
  27. ^ "Stephen Colbert On Insincerity", 60 Minutes, April 27, 2006
Bibliography
  • Rickenbacker, Edward V. Rickenbacker: An Autobiography. New York: Prentice Hall, 1967.
  • Robinson, Jack E. Freefall: The Needless Destruction Of Eastern Air Lines. New York: HarperBusiness, 1992. ISBN 0-88730-556-3

External links