Matt D From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 9502 posts, RR: 47 Posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 8364 times:
You can start a fight among enthusiasts and airline employees alike by bringing up this airlines name. Eastern Airlines was one of the great airlines that went down in disgrace. That is too bad because their end, sadly eclipsed their wonderful history. Just to name a few of their achievments:
They launched both the Lockheed L-1011 and Electra (with American Airlines) as well as the Boeing 757 (along with British Airways).
They pioneered the now legendary East Coast Air Shuttle.
To try and incorporate the long history of Eastern into one post like this would be impossible.
Like so many airlines that sprang up during the Great Depression era, Eastern was largely the creation of one man:
The legendary Eddie Rickenbacker.
This man bult up Eastern from the original Pitcairn Aviation to the large East Coast airline they were. Mr Rickenbacker battled his lifelong rival, Ted Baker of National Airlines for many years. This also, could be the subject of an article all its own.
Instead, I want to look back on Eastern in their later years, which is when I knew them. Unfortunately, living on the West Coast, I did not have a whole lot of exposure to this airline. Sure they served both LAX and my hometown airport, ONT, they just weren't an airline I paid much attention to.
But as with all the airlines I profile, there is a certain memory associated with them:
Whenever I went to my uncles house in Fontana, I would always watch the planes coming in low on approach to ONT. The highlight of each day was always the late afternoon arrival of a 757 coming from who-knows-where. Since ONT received mostly 727's, 737's, and DC-9's, seeing the much larger 757 was a real treat. Plus, it was the only Eastern I would see. The rest of the day was spent watching AirCal's, PSA's, United's, and Americans. So the change was welcome.
The one issue about Eastern that anyone interested always seems to gravitate back to is their shutdown. At the time, I was still in high school. So I didn;t really understand what was happening. Even now, a decade and a half later, I still don't fully understand what happened. All I know is that Frank Lorenzo came in, and took a hard nosed approach to management. The Unions hated him. Parent Co. Texas Air (also running Continental, New York Air, PEOPLExpress, and Frontier) were steering a ship that was taking on a lot of water. Then, there was The Strike. This earned Lorenzo and Eastern a lot of negative publicity. Again, I'm not going to take sides, because as I said, don't really understand what happened.
Then, the Gulf War Crisis was looming. Coupled with a deepening recession, one thing became clear: Continental, or Eastern. One of them had to go. I remember that numerous oddball mergers were attempted at the time: Eastern/TWA, Pan Am/Northwest, and so on.
Nothing came to fruition, and on January 18, 1991, it was all over. Eastern was shut down permanently. Tens of thousands of people were out of work.
It was a sad day for everyone. Mass unemployment, Anger and hostility at management. And the loss of a pioneer airline.
Despite not being involved in ths industry or carefully scrutinizing what was happening, one thing was crystal clear:
For all of the politics, labor and Union busting, and Lorenzo's reputation for squeezing a nickel until the buffalo shits, the one thing that ultimately killed off Eastern was:
Pride. Ego. Arrogance.
"Seeing who has the bigger balls"
Call it whatever you want, but the bottom line is that neither side was willing to do whatever it took to keep the airline afloat. Many people point the finger at Lorenzo. As a result, he was forever banished from the airline industry. Others point the finger at the Unions for making unrealistic demands in a belt-tightening economy. As a result, some 20,000 people lost their livlihoods.
Why is this man so villified?
In the end, none of it mattered. Because everyone lost. One person used an analogy that stuck in my head ever since:
You could be right.
Case in point:
Two cars are driving in opposing directions. One has a green light, and the other red. The person driving towards a red light drives right through it. The person with the green light refuses to yield, because he has the right-of-way.
he gets hit by the other car, and both drivers get killed.
Sure, he was in the right. But he was still killed.
Now the question remains:
Who was driving the car that went through the red light:
EA CO AS From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 13516 posts, RR: 62
Reply 1, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 8306 times:
Great tribute, although it's widely acknowledged that the one man who should shoulder most of the blame for Eastern's destruction is Charlie Bryan, EA's union chief for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. (IAM)
Thanks to some incredibly unfair bargaining by this man, Eastern's Board of Directors was forced to sell the airline to Frank Lorenzo's Texas Air Corporation in 1986. Of course, the rest is history; Lorenzo began to systematically shuffle assets and resources from EA over to his much lower-cost Continental Airlines unit, enabling them to grow and thrive. When Bryan again resisted necessary wage concessions in 1989, he used the trump card he'd always relied upon and had the machinists walk off the job.
Eastern actually would have been fine, as Lorenzo had wisely contracted out nearly all of EA's maintenance and baggage-handling jobs well in advance in the event of a strike. The problem was that EA's pilots walked off in sympathy, grounding the airline entirely. Shortly thereafter, they entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
Under the tenure of bankruptcy trustee Martin Shugrue, EA began to rebuild itself and slowly get back to about a third of its former size. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 drove Jet-A prices through the roof, and kept travelers at home. EA, already on the ropes, could only hold out so long.
The long hard road for Eastern came to an end, as they ceased all operations in January, 1991.
Had Bryan not forced EA's hand back in 1986, they would likely still be around today. Why? Denver-based Frontier Airlines was on the market a year or so later, and was also snapped up by Texas Air. If EA was a viable, stand-alone entity at that time, they could have purchased Frontier and established the Western U.S. presence they'd always needed.
My only hope is that Charlie Bryan is spending the rest of his days digging through dumpsters behind KFC, going, "Ooh! There's one with meat on it!!"
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem - government IS the problem." - Ronald Reagan
FlyCMH From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 2277 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 8307 times:
I still retain very fond memories of the once-proud airline known as Eastern. As a child, they were my favorite carrier. Seeing one of their gleaming silver DC-9's or 727's with the double blue-toned cheatlines and the stylized eagle at Port Columbus was always a thrill for me.
I flew on Eastern for the first time in 1985, when going to visit family in Puerto Rico for Christmas. We were routed from CMH to PIT, with continuing service to MIA, and then connecting to our final leg on to SJU. Given I was only a child, I still remember boarding that 727-200 early in the morning while it was still dark, and noticing that both the captain and first officer were adorning Santa caps. After take-off, I remember seeing the most brilliant sunrise I have ever seen from an airplane. Sadly, I can't remember the aircraft type we flew on from MIA to SJU, but I'm guessing that it was an L-1011. Our return trip took us from SJU to ATL, and connecting to our final leg to CMH. My guess is that we flew on another L-1011 from SJU to ATL, however I do remember the ATL-CMH leg being on a DC-9.
I remember back in 1991, seeing an article in Newsweek Magazine concerning the shut down of Eastern's operations, and seeing a photo of rows of their aircraft parked in ATL, awaiting their fate. I remember being deeply saddened by their closure, and wishing that I could have flown on Eastern one last time.
Greg From United Kingdom, joined May 2005, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 8281 times:
They had possibly some of the worst customer service I've ever experienced.
Although I feel sorry for the thousands that lost thier jobs--I'm not particularly sorry they are gone. Atlanta is better served by Delta and AirTran. Miami is holding its own quite well with American.
Flydeltasjets From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 210 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 8252 times:
Your take on the situation at EAL is simplistic, incorrect, and incomplete. Mgt, both Borman and later Lorenzo, must shoulder the vast majority of the blame. After all, they had a better route structure than Delta, were bigger than Delta, flew virtually the same planes as Delta, and their employees made much less than Delta's. So why did Delta kick their butt? One word: Management.
You blame CB, and I agree that he was unreasonable at times, but you only tell half the story. CB and Borman got into a showdown not over wage concessions, but over control over the company. CB agreed to give concessions, but would only do so if Borman stepped down. Borman, while he might have been a good astronaut, was a LOUSY businessman, who had no business being in the position of CEO of a lemonade stand. He was slowly destroying the company, and everyone knew it except the BOD who the egotist Borman filled with his buddies and "yes" men. CB refused to give more money to have Borman pi$$ it away, as he had been doing for years. Borman, not Bryan, was too stubborn to give in, so, in his infinite wisdom, he sold the company to lorenzo.
lorenzo then decided to break every union on EAL's property. The first to come up was the IAM, who agreed to take concessions. However, that was not enough for lorenzo. He WANTED a strike, so he could impose his own contract like he did at CAL. He knew it, the IAM knew it, and the NMB knew it, which is why they would not release them for so long (years). The IAM didn't want to strike, which is why they faught getting released to a cooling off period for so long, and why they petitioned bush for a PEB (which he denied, even after congress petitioned him to declare one). The IAM finally was forced into a strike because lorenzo would not negotiate, and wanted to impose a draconian contract. The pilots knew that the same thing was going to happen to them when their contract expired, so decided that they had no choice in the matter. It was going to be a case of strike now with the IAM, or strike later without them. They were between a rock and a hard place.
I think that evidence of how horrible the mgt at EAL was comes in the fact that lornenzo was prohibited from ever getting involved in the industry again, and borman, unlike vitually every airline CEO I can think of, was never again courted to run an airline.
If anyone is interested in more detail, I suggest the book "Grounded." I don't know the author, but it can be found on Amazon.
P.S. Great pictures. I miss seeing the "Great Silver Fleet"
AFa340-300E From France, joined May 1999, 2084 posts, RR: 26
Reply 8, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 8221 times:
Everything was pretty much over when Frank Lorenzo took over Eastern Airlines in 1986, as Flydeltasjets in a way pointed. If Frank Borman had come to sold the airline to someone he knew would likely not have an industrial strategy to save the airline, but was working on financial instead, was because the airline was doomed.
As already outlined by previous posters, Eastern was stuck with its Northeast-Florida market which brought mostly leisure passenger, was fairly price-sensitive and seasonal. Why didn't they build a stronger network west of Mississippi is an interesting debate, although one may outline that they had already grown to the lucrative Latin American market.
The authorities too have their responsibility. When President Nixon was elected, he took away traffic rights from EAL to re-award them, it did not help the airline. Why was it so hard for EAL to obtain traffic rights after they became the first US airline to opt for the A300?
Charlie Bryan was also merely existing because of the management: in well-run businesses, there are no strong unions. Why? Because when the employees feel safe about the way their company is run, they don't find it necessary to vote for hard-line union leaders. Bryan was there because many at the IAM were anxious about the way EAL was heading, because the strategy was unclear.
There was some bad luck too: when EAL placed its order for the 757-200 in 1977, the oil barrel was still fairly high and the airline hoped to get great fuel expanses reduction by replacing the 727s. But it turned that the barrel had its price decrease in the early 1980s, and PEOPLExpress badly hurt them with their fuel-guzzling but capital-cheap 737s and 727s.
One could talk about the reasons that killed Eastern Airlines for hours, but a good book to start with is 'Grounded -- Frank Lorenzo and the destruction of Eastern Airlines' by Aaron Bernstein.
Ord From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 1381 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 8195 times:
There is no way Eastern could have grown on the west coast. Eastern had two major disadvantages compared to their rival, Delta. Eastern had much greater debt and more union representation.
So, while Delta was able to buy Western Airlines in 1986/87 with no problem, Eastern could only dream of having the cash to do the same. Remember when the Eastern/Braniff merger was discussed in 1980? There would have been so much debt from those two combined it would have been unreal.
EA CO AS From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 13516 posts, RR: 62
Reply 10, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 8171 times:
Your take on the situation at EAL is simplistic, incorrect, and incomplete.
I'll agree that Frank Borman was not the best businessman in the world. He bought far too many L-1011s. He bought far too few B-727-200s. He launched the B-757, but overpaid for it. He was somewhat ham-handed with the unions, selling his ideas without the salesmanship needed to get things done.
But while Borman was no saint, Bryan was the devil incarnate.
Did you know that Bryan not only resisted wage concessions, but actually demanded nearly 25% pay increases while other contract groups had already agreed to paycuts to keep the airline out of bankruptcy? Did you know he did this on more than one occasion?
Did you know that on that night at Building 16 in Miami that when Bryan said he'd go along with concessions if the CEO resigned that Borman DID offer to tender his resignation? It's true. The Board of Directors refused to accept it, asking Bryan to work with them to save the company.
They begged, they pleaded, and did everything they could to get this intransigent, smarmy, lying snake of a man to see the light, and in the end his own ego wouldn't let him do what was right for the company. His objective was to "beat" Frank Borman at any cost...even 42,000 jobs.
When it was all over, Borman said "You killed this airline." Bryan said, "Well, I'll just tell everyone you did it, so what does that prove?" and almost started a fistfight with him.
So, I don't understand how any rational person can look at these facts and say that my post was "simplistic" or "incomplete."
Perhaps I'm just not as enlightened as you.
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem - government IS the problem." - Ronald Reagan
Flydeltasjets From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 210 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 8134 times:
You are correct on many fronts, and I am aware of the things you mentioned. HOWEVER, while I agree that Bryan was no angel, and I think his greed definitely played a part in EAL's demise, the vast majority of the blame should go to the mgt (borman, his hand-picked and incompetent BOD, and lorenzo.)
Your insistence of putting most of the blame on Bryan, neglects, in my opinion, the huge amount of damage that lorenzo and borman did to EAL. I stand by my original statement, although I am sorry if I offended you. I did not intend to do so. I think that your opinion is incorrect, I offer no judgment on who is more "enlightened."
The BOD excuse, while it is factually correct, is just that, an excuse for borman. He was in over his head, and he should have known it. He should have resigned, regardless of what his cronies on the bod said.
Broke From United States of America, joined Apr 2002, 1322 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 8124 times:
When Charlie Bryant was running for the presidency of Eastern's IAM combined shops, Frank Borman brought the chief shop stewards in from the Miami base and asked them to support the then current president Jim Cates, who worked in the engine shop as a painter. Bryant, who worked in Atlanta at the time, knew about the meeting very shortly after it occurred.
The election, it self, was tainted with several recounts. Each time there was a recount, the number of ballots increased and the vote shift went against Bryant. One shop steward referred to them as "bunny ballots", in that they reproduced themselves in the ballot envelopes. Eventually the IAM national office had to come in and certify the ballots.
Hardly a good way for the company and union to have anything more that a totally adversarial relationship.
Samurai 777 From Canada, joined Jan 2000, 2458 posts, RR: 4
Reply 13, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 8104 times:
Very interesting piece of US airline history!
I vaguely remember from an airliner/aviation magazine that someone wanted to resurrect Eastern sometimes in the mid-90s. I also saw a picture in the same mag of a 757 model which was all-white, with the Eastern light bue/navy cheater running along the length of the fuselage, but not bending up along the fin. In place of the cheater on the fin, there was this familiar round Eastern logo. But somehow, I never heard anything like that since.
Right now, there is a chilling analogy to Eastern's woes possibly happening right now in Air Canada. This is why I find Eastern's demise so interesting.
Trintocan From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2000, 3225 posts, RR: 4
Reply 14, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 8030 times:
I remember Eastern fondly, having flown them in 1983 and 1986 on services between POS and MIA and domestic US services. EA was a regular in POS since 1973 and had a large Caribbean network. I was young when I flew them so the highlight of their service was the Walt Disney activity packs they gave to the children - cool! Those were the good days when they were the official carrier of Walt Disney World. On another occasion while flying on the A300 from MIA to POS the captain spoke a bit about the A300, giving a short talk on its history, engines and technical features which was interesting. How many airlines do you know actually talk about their planes in such glowing manners?
When EA's strike hit in 1989 its repercussions were felt throughout the Caribbean as that vital link to the US was suddenly severed. In POS a 727-200 belonging to the airline was deserted as the pilots flew out on AA. The lonely jet remained on the tarmac for several days before being towed over to the hangar area where it remained for over 2 months. It was only when the Airports Authority of T&T threatened to impound the aircraft for unpaid landing fees that a crew was sent to retrieve the aircraft. That was the last time an EA plane was ever in POS and the airline officially gave up the route in October 1989.
So EA is still fondly remembered by me, childhood memories being uncoloured by the formidable conflicts that ultimately sank the great airline.
MD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8502 posts, RR: 12
Reply 16, posted (11 years 5 months 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 8004 times:
I've flown on Eastern, and with pride on their Great Silver Fleet. Heck, I can remember (I was 3 at the time) coloring in an Eastern coloring book during the flight, which was great fun. The flight attendent was also helpful during that flight, securing a pair of scissors so Mom could cut the big wad of gum that I had stuck in my hair (she always made sure we chewed gum during the flight, especially me, to equalize the pressure in our ears).
But Dad says that he didn't like Eastern's employees, he said they had a holier-than-thou attitude and were rude sometimes. I know he prefers Delta by far.
GDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13168 posts, RR: 78
Reply 17, posted (11 years 5 months 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 7983 times:
Nice tribute Matt, I only flew Eastern once, in November 1988 between Newark and Orlando, down the back in coach on a 727-200, my first, and probably now only, 727 flight.
Service was indifferent, I did not expect much, anyway it was nothing too bad compared to coach on a cramped pre-chapter 11 Continental 747 from Gatwick to Newark!
L1011 From United States of America, joined May 1999, 1670 posts, RR: 9
Reply 18, posted (11 years 5 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 7907 times:
I flew on 201 Eastern flights, all of which I recorded in my logbook. I especially enjoyed flying on their Electras and Convair 440s. I also remember when their L-1011s went from 8-abreast seating to 9-abreast. I flew on both configurations on the same trip. Twice I flew all over the place on their unlimited mileage fare. With that fare, I flew from LAX to SFO, with a connection in ATL. I remember when they had an A300 flight from RIC to ATL, changing to an L-1011 on Tuesdays. I really miss Eastern.
Srbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (11 years 5 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 7909 times:
I never had the chance to fly on Eastern, but it has played a role in my family. My grandfather worked for them @ ATL from 1945-1983 (he was drafted not too long after starting @ EAL, and spent a few years in the Army, serving in Post-WWII Japan). He started out fueling a/c (the first time he ever saw "The Captain", he was refueling a DC-3, and got chewed out by Rickenbacker for spilling fuel) and by the time he retired, he was the Air Cargo Manager for them at ATL. My grandfather said right before he retired that the unions were going to kill Eastern, and turns out to be true. He related to me the story about Charlie Bryan trying to stop Eastern from doing powerbacks, which were costing IAM jobs. Eastern's troubles really started in the 1970s. The new a/c and some bad investments drove Eastern into over $4 Billion in debt, and in 1976, asked the employees to take paycuts to help relive that debt. When Eastern folded in January of 1991, their debt was nearly the same then as it was in 1976; essentially, those pay cuts went to help buy new a/c. Lorenzo didn't care about Eastern at all; the only asset of Eastern's he wanted was the System One reservations system. If he was really serious about Eastern, he would have merged them into Continental instead of leaving it a separate airline. The IAM strike really didn't hurt Eastern until ALPA joined them on the picket line. Eastern management was prepared for the Machinist's strike, they had already assembled replacement rampers and mechanics at undisclosed locations near airports, and within 30 minutes of the IAM members walking out, the replacement workers were on site. When ALPA joined the strike in March 1989, that really started to signal the beginning of the end. At the time, one of the Assistant Scoutmasters in my Scout Troop was an Eastern pilot, and he was VERY ticked off about the pilots joining the strike; he was opposed to the strike, and was happy oce the pilots returned. Martin Shagrue could have saved Eastern had it not been for the Gulf War. Jet-A prices jumped in price, and the industry was already in a downturn, and those factors combined with fears of travel by the American public were the final straws that broke the back of Eastern. It took a long time for many ex-Eastern employees to find new jobs in the airline industry; many airlines saw the Eastern employees as troublemakers that brought down a great airline. The pilot I knew finally got a flying gig about 8 months after Eastern folded; not with Delta or one of the other majors (Delta wouldn't even think of hiring Eastern pilots for several years afterwards), but with World. Nearly all of the US startup airlines of the 1990s included a number of ex-Eastern employees on their staffs.
LoneStarMike From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 3811 posts, RR: 34
Reply 20, posted (11 years 5 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 7901 times:
Remember what Eastern used to call their VIP Club? The Ionosphere Lounge. I only flew Eastern once in 1979 from ATL-DFW.
I don't ever remember seeing an Eastern plane in AUS, but I'm pretty sure they flew there because their ticket counter used to be next to Southwest's. In the late 1980's/early 1990's, WN and EA's ticket counters were torn down when AUS was expanding and built the East terminal where Southwest had four gates. By the time the project was complete, Eastern had gone out of business.
Matt D From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 9502 posts, RR: 47
Reply 21, posted (11 years 5 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 7901 times:
One interesting tidbit of trivia often forgotten is that EWR based KIWI International (anyone remember them?) was founded by ex Pan Am and Eastern pilots and executives. The airline was so named because a kiwi is a flightless bird. Well since Pan Am and Eastern were no longer flying, it was a sort of tribute.
Anyone remember what happened to KIWI?
So everyone that pointed the dirty end of the stick at Lorenzo had a chance to "do it their way". They STILL failed.
And the beauty of it was maintennance pinches that bit them in the butt.
Gr8slvrflt From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1599 posts, RR: 10
Reply 24, posted (11 years 5 months 19 hours ago) and read 7812 times:
This thread really makes me feel I'm back at Eastern (I worked there from 1982 until 1991): finger-pointing, arguments, excuses, blame-laying, what-ifs, if-onlys, and make believe. We had fun, though, and we ran a good airline. We had a lot going for us: SystemOne; great hubs in Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami and Kansas City; South America; the Shuttle; the Moonlight Special; the best Frequent Flyer progam going; and a balanced fleet. Too bad crushing debt; overwhelming animosity between management and the IAM (ALPA and TWU tried very hard to keep things going); savvy competition; and the evil triumvirate of Charlie Bryan, Frank Lorenzo and Saddam Hussein destroyed it all.
: Gr8 Great post. Add Borman to the mix of those to blame, and it would be perfect.
: At least System One survives in a way...Amadeus
: **Actually KIWI was originally based in ATL, and moved to EWR after getting trounced by the other low fare airlines that were in ATL at the time (Air
: I often fantasized what Eastern would be flying today if they were still around and being that I am moving to Orlando not far from the airport... I fa
29 EA CO AS
: Gr8- Once again, your posts about EA are right on the money. Flydeltasjets- Great post. Add Borman to the mix of those to blame, and it would be perfe
: Because Borman was in charge when the airline went to hell. He should shoulder the lion's share of the blame. HE took on too much debt. HE didn't refi
31 EA CO AS
: In fact, reading your age, you couldn't have spent too long there. While I only worked for EA for 2 years prior to their demise, my parents met while
: I don't remember a lecture. In fact, it was you who attempted to tell me how EAL people felt. I just find it ironic that you don't assign much blame t
33 EA CO AS
: I probably passed you a time or two in our travels throughout the EAL system. While we disagree on the blame, we do agree that it was a wonderful plac
: It was I who should have been more diplomatic. However, it is all the same to you, I prefer to stay at Delta. I want to stay as far away from Leonard
35 EA CO AS
: However, it is all the same to you, I prefer to stay at Delta. Can't say I blame you! They're a great company. I just would love to see the old EA col