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Catching Up with the New Eastern Air Lines

A model at Farnborough showing the EAL livery on the MRJ90 - Photo: Jon Ostrower

A model at Farnborough showing the Eastern livery on the MRJ90 – Photo: Jon Ostrower

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.

A Boeing 737-800NG seen in Eastern Air Lines' livery - Image: EAL

A Boeing 737-800 Next Generation seen in Eastern Air Lines’ livery – Image: EAL

“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.”

BONUS: Catching Up with the Mitsubishi MRJ Regional Jet

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.

Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L1011 - Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi | Wiki Commons

Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L1011 – Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi | Wiki Commons

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?

   David Parker Brown – Editor-in-Chief & Founder 

David started AirlineReporter in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn't imagine living anywhere else in the world.

 @ARdpb | Flickr |YouTube | david@airlinereporter.com

28 comments to Catching Up with the New Eastern Air Lines

  • JohnSD

    I have heard nothing but horror stories regarding the original Eastern Airlines, however I never once witnessed or experienced anything that matched the hearsay. I grew up in Boston, and EAL was synonymous with travel to DCA and LGA due to the Air Shuttle – and how I miss their Electra’s. I flew Eastern back and forth to the west coast, to and from NY and FL, and honestly cannot remember a bad flight or poor service. It would bring an ear to ear smile on my face if I saw the blue hockey stick taxiing around again.

  • Seems popular in this industry to poo-poo startups. As best I can tell this is totally isolated to the transportation industry. In nearly any other industry the startup underdogs get the support they deserve. Healthy skepticism is fine, but the blanket declaration of any new airline being dead before getting off the ground, it’s too pessimistic for my liking. But hey, Southwest was the new kid on the block once, now they’re the biggest domestic carrier and they STILL get hate. Lots of protectionist legacy lovers out there…

  • GJGálik

    I hope they load up the piggy bank – capital, capital and more capital. Burn rates for a startup daunting leap to survival. Some may love or hate the legacy brand, but it will be to the management to bring us – all over again – to the new EAL. That’s our choice – love or hate, but the worst be … indifference.

  • John G

    I think there is definitely some room for a low-cost model, especially as AirTran goes away. That said, this one doesn’t look like it will work.

    1) They have chosen the wrong hub. Miami is a very expensive place to operate. Plus if they only do domestic they won’t get any connecting traffic there.

    2) They picked an area that is already saturated on all levels of the spectrum. On the ULCC side, Spirit has a hub at FLL, and Allegiant flies to a ton of Florida cities already. For the low cost carriers, JetBlue already has a large number of flights to S Florida. And of course they cannot compete with American for the higher-end business customer. So who can they target?

    Using the name Eastern could work…and there is room out there for a hungry, well-run low cost airline. But in Miami? Doomed to failure.

  • Christopher

    As a former EA employee (who was laid off in the bankruptcy) I can tell you that EA had a devoted customer base, particularly in the Caribbean, where we were one of the early airline choices – until we were purchased by Texas Air (Continental) who were all about profit margin. That’s when it all went downhill and we were eviscerated for our route map. Before EA, I worked for PeopleExpress. Talk about a brand that doesn’t need to come back!!

  • Adam

    Me thinks there is more to this story than is apparent at this time

  • chris

    Growing up in northern New Jersey, Eastern was one of the largest operators at Newark Airport. My family flew them to Tamp on an A300 jumbo jet. Even though we were in coach, the food, service and airplane were all first class. Eastern was always my first choice airline to Boston, Washington, Florida and the Carolinas. Never a bad flight. It was horrid what Texas Air did to Continental (and People Express which was also a great airline). Hopefully they will come back with a new business model and compete with the legacy airlines. Good luck to Eastern!

  • j s carpenter

    I Flew them for many years out of Charlotte and carried there ExecutiveTraveler status. A class operation. I still fly 100k miles per year on business. With todays airlines all really offering unapologetic poor service I wonder if you could build a business around great first class service while charging the highest coach fare? For the business traveler this might work as they are not as concerned about fares and constantly complain ( justifiably) about poor service. Miami will definitely not work as a hub.

  • Greg Picur

    I worked part-time at the Eastern Reservations Center in Tampa from Nov. 1989 to the day its ceased operations in January 1991. While I am now a loyal United Platinum 1K customer based in Saudi Arabia, I will make an effort to support the New Eastern if they serve any of the United Gateways (IAD, EWR, ORD, IAH) and Sarasota, FL (SRQ). In order to succeed, the New Eastern will have to distinguish itself from the other carriers like Jet Blue, United, American and Delta. The failure of the Old Eastern was accelerated by trying to be the lowest cost carrier. If any New Eastern Managers are reading this, try introducing a Hybrid Class of Travel; Something like 35 inch pitch seating and five across seating on the 737s. There is a segment of the traveling population that is sick of being wedged into sardine sized seats. The average size of American flyers is not shrinking. Good Luck New Eastern !!!!

  • Mark Manfredi

    I started selling right out of college. Being based in Orlando FL my choice was Eastern or Delta. I tried both and instantly became a loyal Eastern customer until their last day. No matter what may have been going on behind the scenes I was always treated like royalty. To this day I have my Gold Frequent Flyer card safely preserved. I still use them as an example of what I think an airline should be. At 52 years of age I know that a great number of today’s travelers have no idea what I am talking about. And I also know that 911 changed the airline industry forever. But as soon as I can get on an Eastern flight again, I will…even if I don’t really need to go where it’s headed, I’m going because it reminds me of a better way of flying.

  • Marc

    I agree that MIA is probably going to be rough for the new Eastern. They should have taken over the old US Airways hub in PIT. It’s a Class A airport, centrally located, specifically designed for hub operations from the airline and passenger perspective (a great Air Mall), is under-utilized and, with the oil & gas business in the area and growing PIT economy, a hub is needed now more than it was when US left. And, I bet the airport authority would be willing to subsidize a start-up, especially an old legacy carrier like Eastern. I would definitely fly the new Eastern, but not if I have to fly to the tip of south Florida to change planes then back-track to my destination. Big mistake to overlook PIT.

  • I worked in Cargo Accounting in Bldg 5A for 12 1/2 years up until I was told to go home. It was the best position I have ever had. It was a class airline and everyone, no matter where you were knew Eastern Airlines. MIA was like a city within a city. Good luck to the new EASTERN AIRLINES. I will keep watching for news. Lets give them a chance. I will definitely fly Eastern.

  • Growing up in Miami a long time ago, there was only Eastern and Pan Am. Eastern was the one to fly on if you were going anywhere in the US. We all felt like Eastern was our very own airlines. So happy and proud that it’s come back. I went through their stew training program at Miami Springs Villas. Great times and stories. Wish them great success. Suggestion: look at Alligiant’s scheduling/prices/locations. Smart travelers use them. Gainesville and Tallahassee populations could use another choice to get to/from these university/state capital locations. I fly out of Knoxville, TN now and will look forward to buying a ticket someday on an Eastern Airline flight!

  • Steve

    Lived in Miami in the 70s. Eastern had its own concourse and dominated MIA. I started flying them as a child on the Electra. I lived near ORL and our house was off the approach to runway 7. This was before MCO was open to civilian traffic. I thought Eastern was a great airline until it ran into financial issues due to apparent bad management. Ahhhh…..Miami Springs. You’re right Margaret…..great times and great stories. I worked over at the Koger Executive Center right off 36th Street.

    What was the name of that bar in the Springs that was so popular???? Memory fails me.

  • What a great memory of such a wonderful airline!!! Is there any city that they didn’t service? Class act! Would welcome them with open arms!

    • Gigi Flores

      The airline was top, only the union was crap, the union was put together from people who slept as F/A did not come on time on to the airplane, could not serve, did not find anything in the galley. F/A arrived on the flight, who where flying for roommates, did not know the procedure. Very, very sad. When I quit, I did fly in 1977, the service was, well I don’t know, if it was service. I did not use this Airline anymore, the good service and F/A where gone.

  • Kimball Love

    My first and favorite airline – Wish them the best!

  • Cappy

    I hope they open and make lots. I am one of the many ex employees they screwed as the raped the companies assets. Not many of us left but they will give us someone to chase again looking for a final paycheck. Too bad the currupt politicians are part of this again. They burned us once, I shouldn’t expect anything different this time.

  • Six east or 6 west in Miami springs.

  • I’m looking forward to flying Eastern again, an airline where service in the air and on the ground was always excellent. Now it seems that large carriers such as Delta and United are competing who can be at the bottom of the list. Where else in the world would you operate a 10 hour flight without food?
    Good Luck Eastern!

  • Robert Hadow

    Eastern was a great consumer brand, but you gotta be 40 to remember it. Conversely, the company left a bad taste in many employees’ mouths. In reality, EAL is a new game altogether. Nothing is the same but the address and the logo. Analysts have every right to be skeptical. The ramp is littered with airline startups. We were told in 2001 that the airline industry–as a whole–has never made a dime since the first mail contract was let. What’s different for Eastern?

    The Eastern brand name cost $675,000. If the airline is a winner, that’ll be a cheap investment–cheaper than hiring a brand consultant. While the company is in charter mode, it’s a waste. The Pan Am name has been recycled six times. Now there’s talk to resurrecting Braniff out of St Louis. That brand has already been used twice since the original failed in 1982.

    The bright spot is that a new entrant will have low crew costs until they develop seniority. JetBlue, for example, now 14 years in, is joining the big boys in an ALPA contract.

    EAL may have some bright ideas. Viola’s a bright guy. I’m sure he wouldn’t invest unless there was a compelling screenplay. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.

  • Mary Ann Solomon

    Wow! I’m a former Eastern employee and I can only wish them all the best. I worked for EAL as a secretary at 10 Rock in New York. This was when I was very young, before college, before marriage. The years I spent at Eastern were wonderful. I would love to see it succeed.

  • Edwin J "SKI" Korczynski

    Here’s some song lyric’s that have been around and describes Olde’ and the reason for the success of the “New Eastern Airlines” which reads as follows:

    Olde’ Eastern learned more from failure then they did from success, learned more from “No thank you,” so much more than from yes, learned to be willing to lead with their chin and if they were willing to lose they certainly were able to win. The dimmer their future the brighter they glowed. The Eastern spirit learned that they could give in and they could give out, but that spirit never gave “UP!”

    So than, Oh….remember this one, “They pulled themselves up by the boot straps,” “Made it easier to fly” and got right back in the fight. This Olde’ Eastern Pilot says, congratulations to the one or two airlines that made it but God Bless the New Eastern for getting back in fight and never “Gave up!”

    Accordingly, everything we achieve was once a dream. People who do not have a dream do not have much. Remembering that many of us are more capable then others but none of us as capable as all of us. However, goals not only need dreams they require a test of character which is not merely “Hanging in there” when one expects a light at the end of the tunnel, but through the performance of duty and persistence of example when one knows that no light is coming.

    My money’s on the “New Eastern” “My hat’s in the ring!” Call me Captain Eddie Iam ready to serve. Their success is inevitable; with a big “T” for team spirit. This “New Eastern” gives me the impression that they have the inspiration and ability to look beyond that will provide them with the “Motivation” to succeed; “Break a Leg!”

    Former Convention Charter Sales Manager Mid West and Pacific Rim Chicago District Sales 1965 until 1967 and First Officer 1967′ until Circa 1990.
    First Officer Edwin J. “SKI” Korczynski

  • Grant m Jordan

    My father, ( CAPTAIN LLOYD JORDAN ) was a captain with eastern airlines for close to 30 years before mandatory retirement .
    I am very proud of him and his accomplishments through his career ! ,, I have most of his airline uniforms and medals, and acclamations , and awards . From 1950 – 1974 which I still hold dear to my heart.
    I was going to donate to the air museum at tamiami airport, but when I heard about this, I have decided to hang onto them, in hopes one day my dad will be recognized as the great pilot he was, not only in WWII , but also as an EASTERN AIRLINES CAPTIAN FOR MANY YEARS ,

    GRANT M JORDAN.

  • Felicia Bois

    I love Eastern Airlines it was my favorite then and when it starts now I have traveled more in that airline more than all others combined may the Lord help them to get strong again when they start.

  • Héctor. Fernández

    Wow!!! I am a former Eastern employee and I can only wish them all the best. I worked for EAL 21 year as a mechanic. I would love to see EAL flying again.

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