The first time I flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico was on Eastern Airlines way back in 1985 when I was working on a consulting project there.
Ironically, the last time I flew Eastern Airlines involved a trip to San Juan. That was January 1991. Eastern was mired bankruptcy. The US was in the first Gulf war. The economy was tanking. But Eastern had super cheap fares to the islands and I jumped at the chance to escape winter in Atlanta.
Rumors had been swirling for months about a possible shut down, but I did not believe them. We took off from Atlanta, and by the time we landed in San Juan, Eastern was out of business. Grounded. The plane I was on flew back to Miami where it was parked for good.
I was stuck in San Juan (not a bad place to be stuck in January, mind you). Luckily, Delta accommodated (gratis) all passengers stranded by the shut down, so I made it back to Atlanta.
So when I saw the above photo today of Eastern landing at SJU, it brought back all those memories.
The original incarnation of Eastern disappeared for good in 1991.
Fast forward to 2015. A new Eastern Airlines has been formed, and while it is not affiliated with the original Eastern, the new group acquired the old carrier’s intellectual property, including the name, branding and old slogans such as “Wings of Man” according to the Miami Herald.
The Herald reports that the new carrier will operate as a charter carrier, has a headquarters at Miami International Airport, and 47 employees. It has just one 737 now, but has ordered 10 more, and has raised $15 million to get started.
A charter airline does not sell individual seats… it’s in the business of selling an entire aircraft to tour operators. So you won’t be able to buy a ticket on Eastern, but you could end up flying Eastern if you buy a ticket from a tour operator that has chartered the Eastern plane.
Eastern has already started training flight attendants and pilots, and is performing its FAA proving flights (like the one to San Juan) in order to get its operating certificate. The plane has also been spotted recently at Dallas Love Field. It’s hoping to make its first revenue generating flights in May, but that’s still uncertain.
Do you remember Eastern Airlines? What do you think about this attempt to bring back an old airline brand?
Please leave your comments below.