Whenever there is news that a startup airline is going to launch with a classic name-sake, I get a little excited. When press releases started coming in saying that Eastern Air Lines was going to start up again, I was happy, but of course skeptical.
Even back in May when they signed an initial order with Boeing and placed deposits for 10 737-800NG and 10 737 MAX 8 aircraft, I was unsure about the viability of the airline.
Then, last week at the Farnborough Airshow, they announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for 20 Mitsubishi MRJ90 aircraft, with purchase rights to an additional 20. Now, I am starting to pay a bit more attention.
“We are extremely impressed with the operating cost benefits of the MRJ with the geared turbofan engine, which reduces seat mile costs almost to the level of current 130-seater aircraft,” Edward J. Wegel, Eastern Air Lines Group President and CEO said. “This provides an excellent scheduling and route network advantage to Eastern as we look to add a second fleet type within five years.”
The new EAL will be hubbed at Miami International Airport (MIA), just like its predecessor. Even though they have planes on order, the airline has quite a long ways to go. They filed their initial paperwork with the Department of Transportation (DOT) in January and intend to operate charter and wet-lease operations out of MIA beginning as early as December, 2014. They will need to get approval from the DOT and FAA before they can commence commercial operations. Those approvals have been the roadblocks for many other start-up airlines.
Although reviving classic airline names can give warm and fuzzy feelings to AvGeeks, it might not be the best idea. Brett Snyder (aka Cranky Flier) sees the revival a bit differently.
“That is not a brand that people loved except for a handful of former employees with rose-colored glasses or kids who took their first trip to Disney World on them and never flew them again,” Snyder commented in a blog post. “Eastern’s reputation was one of a mess of an airline with contentious labor relations. It got so bad that a group called We Hate Eastern Airlines (WHEAL) was formed.”
He continues questioning if old namesakes can live up to even their old positive reputations. “It’s somebody who loves and remembers the brand and thinks that the golden days of travel are gone. So by bringing back that name, the golden days will return. They won’t.”
But it doesn’t mean that the new Eastern won’t succeed.
There are a number of interesting start-ups I have been watching (PeopleExpress, Baltia Air Lines, and Pan Am [which has already failed]) and I wonder which will survive. With the airlines merging and there being fewer low-cost choices, I think there is a market that these niche airlines might be able to make it, but there are competitors out there who will make it quite difficult. Who do you think will make it and who will fail?