Eastern Air Lines Could Take To The Skies Once More

While it would take some effort to resurrect Eastern Air Lines from the dead, Airways Magazine is claiming that the carrier could take to the skies once more.

Eastern Airlines used to be one of the “Big Four.”
Eastern Airlines used to be one of the “Big Four.” Photo: RuthAS via Wikipedia

Once one of the “Big Four” American domestic airlines, Eastern Air Lines virtually dominated flights on the eastern seaboard of the United States in the late 60s and throughout the 70s.

Following the deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 while under the leadership of former astronaut Frank Borman, Eastern Air Lines went head to head competing against Delta Air Lines from its Atlanta hub.

Having less unionized employees and more international routes Delta won the battle of Atlanta, where today it is still the number one airline. In the mid-80s, Eastern began losing money as it faced competition from no-frills airlines, such as People Express and was eventually sold Texas Air.

Labor disputes put Eastern Air Lines out of business

The final nail in the coffin for Eastern Air Lines was a labor dispute in 1989 that forced the carrier to file for bankruptcy protection.

Labor disputes caused Eastern Air Lines to fail Photo: clipperarctic via Wikimedia

Although this allowed Eastern to fly with non-unionized employees, it was to no avail. The airline stopped flights at midnight Saturday, January 19, 1991. After more than six decades in business, the Eastern Air Lines brand may be gone, but it is certainly not forgotten.

Hopefully the iconic name and brand will take to the skies once more when it receives approval from the D.O.T. The new Eastern Air Lines, now called Eastern Airline LLC emerged from bankruptcy in 2018 from Dynamic International Airways who previously owned the rights to the name and logo.

Current Eastern Airlines CEO, Steve Harfst, has sent a letter out to employees, according to Airways Magazine, which reads,

“In support of the development of our new corporate website and the promotion of our new business plan, we have been working very hard getting the new Eastern Airlines ready for take-off. We have been very busy investing in the infrastructure necessary to promote a successful scheduled service network.

“We believe that there are strong market opportunities open to Eastern Airlines to provide limited frequency, non-stop service between international markets and the United States.”

Up until now, Eastern Airlines had been focusing on the charter side of aviation leasing out its fleet of eight Boeing 767-200/300 aircraft.

Easter Airlines will acquire second-hand wide-body aircraft

Mark Porter, CEO of PA Coastal Airways Route Consultants told Airways Magazine that Eastern Airlines are going to commence its new flights using a fleet of second had Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 jets.

Kenya Airways 777-200
Eastern Airlines first 777-200 will be an old Kenya Airways plane. Photo: Björn Strey via Wikimedia

Porter claims that at least five 777-200s will belong to Eastern by May of 2020 and that the first aircraft to join will be a former Kenya Airways 777-2U8(ER), owned by KMW Leasing. The rest of the Eastern fleet could contain as many as 50 767s.

The game plan Eastern wants to put in play is a point to point network rather than a spoke and hub operation. The plan is to operate flights to South America and China from the airline’s base at JFK in New York.

The proposed routes include JFK to Guayaquil, Ecuador, Georgetown, Guyana, Anchorage, Alaska and Jinan, China. Rather an odd bunch, but most likely a group of destinations that are not served well by flights out of JFK and EWR currently.

The new Eastern Airlines is getting its website set up at goeasternair.com and an all-new logo designed to feature the destinations it plans to serve.

Will Eastern Airlines’ plan work?

Anchorage aside, I wonder if selecting secondary destinations in South America and China is a strategy that will work.

The new Eastern Airlines will be based at JFK. Photo: RuthAS via Wikipedia

You have to think that if there was a niche market in South America, American Airlines would already have flights to these destinations. Another reason why I question whether or not it is a good plan is that, after 29-years, America Airlines has pulled out of flying to Bolivia.

Eastern has, from what it appears, gone for destinations that will be flown by friends and family rather than tourists. As for the China flights, how does Eastern plan to go up against the large Asian carriers that offer cheap flights already to China from JFK?

I think China might not work, but finding routes the big boys ignore could be a sweet niche providing they have the passenger numbers to make it work.

What do you think about Eastern Airlines’ plan? Please let us know in the comments.