A concept drawing of the ‘new’ Eastern Airlines 737-800.
Way back in 1927, a little airline started in Florida. It was called Eastern Air Lines. Over the next 64 years, the airline expanded to fly millions of passengers and become one the Big 4 airlines of its day. It was an airline that was both beloved and despised. Beloved for its place in aviation history as being known to employ the latest technology of the day like the Boeing 727 “WhisperJets” and became the US launch customer for the Boeing 757-200. Yet Eastern was also hated because of their miserable customer service, poor management and employee discord that eventually led to its demise in 1991.
A group of investors who have a fond memory of what Eastern used to be have decided to try to resurrect the airline. They plan to begin service as a charter company, flying the 737-800 initially. They’ve made no mention of scheduled services yet. They first announced their plans in early January of 2014. Their news was met with much skepticism and doubt. The verdict is still out on their chances for ever actually flying. They did, however, recently post a drawing of their ‘new’ Easter livery and state that their first aircraft, the “Spirit of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker” is expected to be delivered to Eastern in late Summer 2014.” And it’s important to note that they plan to be a sponsor at Miami fashion week in May. So they must be real.
The desire to launch an airline is like a virus that attacks really rich people. Launching an airline is no easy task and the success rate is really low. Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Atlantic once quipped that “the easiest way to become a millionaire is to start out a billionaire then go into the airline business.” Since deregulation, hundreds of airlines have launched and then failed. The “relauch” record of airlines is even worse. PanAm, Midway, and Braniff are all examples of that failure. In fact, Frontier appears to be the only ‘successful’ relaunch of an airline. (Success with Frontier is a relative term as they’ve been sold multiple times over the years and dipped their toe in bankruptcy waters as well). Will Eastern have better luck?