BOSugaDL
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The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:27 pm

I was just searching through photos of Eastern in the late 80's before they went bankrupt. Now I know nothing about the economics of running an airline, but it seems like they must have had an extremely high mx bill. At this time they were flying A-300, DC 9/10, B727/757 and L1011's. I know that today airlines want commonality among their fleets, but it seems that Eastern had not heard of that concept.
I know the Deregulation Act really hurt the airlines at this time....But could the diversity of Eastern's fleet caused some of their economic troubles? Or were their numbers of each aircraft sufficient to allow for 4 different aircraft manufacturers to fly with Eastern?....Thanks
 
727LOVER
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:39 pm

If you look at the fleet it was really at the time the same as DL except A300 instead of 767. But the A300 came out WAAAAY before the 767.
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
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STT757
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:44 pm

It was their labor relations which led to the strike which shut them down for a couple months and gave them bad press which drove their customers to other carriers, people did not want to cross picket lines to check in.

Their fleet had nothing to do with it, check out the fleet of the other airlines back in the '80s.
Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
 
sccutler
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:47 pm

1. Frank Borman- nice guy, not a good airline manager;

2. IAM.

Save your breath protesting about Francisco Lorenzo, his involvement only affected the value of assets at liquidation, not the survival of the carrier.
...three miles from BRONS, clear for the ILS one five approach...
 
Alpha 1
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:49 pm

I'd have to disagree about Lorenzo there Scuttler. I think the airline could have been saved even at the time Frankie Baby had EA in the Texas Air fold. But 1. He wanted to siphon off all the good assets from EA-System One comes to mind-and build CO with them, and 2. He and Charlie Bryan, who is still a saint to some union members (why, God only knows) were such egomaniacs that they let their personal animosity destroy what chance there was to save EA.

There have been several books on EA's demise-some blame Lorenzo and management, some blame Bryan and the IAM. It was a combination of both.
 
747400sp
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:55 pm

BOSugaDL


Do not forget there DC10 30. I believe it was there management also.
 
BOSugaDL
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 1:03 pm

747400sp,
I did add the DC10-30....thats what i meant with the "DC9/10"...the "10" is the DC 10-30
 
747400sp
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 1:16 pm

BOSugaDL

I apologize.
 
BOSugaDL
Topic Author
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 1:19 pm

no its cool....i should have been more clear, my bad
 
IMissPiedmont
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 1:23 pm

Scuttler is right. Borman is a hell of a nice guy, but he wanted to fold all Texas Air operations into one carrier, that being CO. He didn't reckon on the stupidity of Bryan.

Perhaps both should have read the Dr Seuss story about the two characters standing in the road unwilling to give an inch. I don't remember the name of the story but it was a valuable lesson.

[Edited 2003-08-28 06:24:44]
The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
 
727LOVER
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 1:27 pm

No, that's Lorenzo!

Here's a funny story. Today, I was watching an old rerun of "All In The Family" from the '70s. One of Archie Bunker's neighbors was named Frank Lorenzo!
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
IMissPiedmont
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 1:52 pm

Senility at my age. I'm ashamed.
The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
 
Accidentally
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 2:05 pm

Indianapolis, IN
 
Prinair
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 3:33 pm

I would place the fault mostly on the IAM...I was there during the nasty strike...Charlie Bryant and his ego....next would be Lorenzo....

Continental thrived because of EA's assets....The newer airbuses were given to CO...they gave EA worthless promisory notes for them....The same thing with EA's very profitable System One CRS....CO got it and never paid EA for it and then a few years later sells it to Amadeus for a HUGE profit....

When it became obvious that EA would go under (late 1990) I transferred from EA to System One (back then you could still transfer between companies)in order to have a job...then later became an Amadeus employee....which years later I resigned to go work for an airline (my current employer).

It is called survival...
PRINAIR : Puerto Rico International Airlines
 
sccutler
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 10:14 pm

Prinair, you showed excellent judgment in your career moves. Too bad Charlie Bryan lacked the same common sense in his approach to dealing with labor negotiations- and he brought down the careers of thousands.

Frank Lorenzo bought Eastern primarily for its useful assets- and its ongoing airline operations were, by that time, not particularly valuable. Brutal reality, but if Lorenzo had not done it, someone else would have- or maybe they would have gone straight to liquidation. There is no way EAL would have survived, nor could it have changed (with its divisive culture) to thrive in the airline market as it is today.

Eastern was a dead man walking before Texas Air ever touched it. Texas Air's purchase of Continental saved that airline, and it thrives today (though what a bumpy road to get here!); no team of wild horses could save EAL. One wonders whether, had Texas Air bought Eastern earlier rather than Continental, we might be having the same "conversation" with the names reversed.
...three miles from BRONS, clear for the ILS one five approach...
 
srbmod
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 11:20 pm

Eastern's labor woes dated back many years before Lorenzo got there. The Southern US is not exactly know for being pro-Unions. For many years in the South, Unions were usually spoken in the same breath as Communists. You get a bunch of GOBs running things @ ATL and have some damnyankees unionizing your staff, there's bound to be some friction. My grandfather worked for Eastern for nearly 40 years (1945-1983), and when he worked on the ramp, he had no problem with the unions (except when they struck several times during the 1950s and early 1960s) until he was promoted into management. He has told me just how screwed up the IAM made things around there. He'd fire an employee, and the IAM got them their job back; never mind this person was a bad worker. Charlie Bryan is one of many people that can be blamed for the downfall of Eastern. Eastern's use of powerbacks was a way of getting back at Bryan and the IAM. The oft-told story of Charlie Bryan getting behind the plane to stop a powerback is true, as my grandfather was a witness to it. Bryan and Borman bickered like a married couple; take out Borman and replace him with Lorenzo, and we're talking about matches and gasoline. Byran felt (and perhaps rightfully so)Lorenzo screwed over the IAM employees@ CO when he got all CO union contracts tossed by filing CH.11; and that move to this day is still used to this day by the IAM as a scare tactic to get members to keep them as their union, and to get new members at other airlines. The IAM uses Frank Lorenzo's name as if he is Adolf Hitler; anyone that worked him is considered as bad as he is. Back in 1999 when the IAM was trying to unionize AirTran Customer Service Employees (Ramp, Gate, Ticketing, Reservations) they started a real dirty campaign against Joe Leonard. All because Joe Leonard was COO of Eastern during the Lorenzo years. The IAM made it sound like Leonard was Lorenzo reincarnated, and that he was bad. The mudslinging by the IAM (effectly countered by AirTran's management) could be seen as the reason why the IAM was voted down; I still think it was employee apathy, as most of the ATL CS employees didn't even care (many said they were for the union, but would refuse to say they sent in the ballot). The downfall of Eastern taught a lot of airline executives lessons that they hope will never be repeated.
 
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OzarkD9S
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Thu Aug 28, 2003 11:25 pm

"Grounded:..." is an excellent book, but definately one-sided. If you want another side of the story also read: "Freefall" by Jack E. Robinson. That's a EA manager's point of view and between the two, you get an excellent overview of the downfall of Eastern.
And I do mean read both, you can form your own opinion.
Next up: STL-CVG-MKE-MSP-STL.
 
philhyde
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 12:10 am

Interesting synopsis of EA:

http://www.aerius.nl/magazine/issues/Issue%2023/Eastern_Airlines.pdf
Canon junkie - Aviation Nut
 
HlywdCatft
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 1:04 am

Delta was more diverse than Eastern in 1991-92, and they didn't have problems due to non comonality

Delta

Airbus A310s from Pan Am
727
737-200
737-300
757-200
767-200
767-300
DC-9
DC-10 (from Western)
MD-88
MD-11 on order
L1011
 
MD80Nut
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 2:18 am

As others have mentioned, it was a combination of poor management, intransigent unions and an inability to talk to each other that sank Eastern. A friend of mine who worked for Eastern for the last 12 years of the airline's existence blames inflated egos on both sides who couldn't compromise on anything. He claims the seeds of destruction had been sown long before Frank Lorenzo came on the scene, though he played a role as well.

A shame, really. I flew Eastern a lot and it was once a great airline.
Fly Douglas Jets DC-8 / DC-9 / DC-10 / MD80 / MD11 / MD90 / 717
 
gr8slvrflt
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 2:30 am

Don't make too big a deal over commonality. Eastern's DC-9-31s, DC-9-51s, 727-25s and 727-225s all had similar (though not identical) JT9D engines. Likewise, the A300B4 and DC-10-30 had nearly identical GE engines. The 757's RB211-E4 was based upon the RB211 from the L-1011. Actually, Eastern had a more common fleet than American, Delta, United or Continental.

From a nine-year Eastern employee, its demise was caused by years of less than wise management decisions, union intransigence, war & recession, skyrocketing fuel costs, indifference from the White House and outright theft and deception from Frank Lorenzo and Texas Air Corporation.
I work for Southwest, but the views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Southwest.
 
gr8slvrflt
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 2:31 am

Don't make too big a deal over commonality. Eastern's DC-9-31s, DC-9-51s, 727-25s and 727-225s all had similar (though not identical) JT9D engines. Likewise, the A300B4 and DC-10-30 had nearly identical GE engines. The 757's RB211-E4 was based upon the RB211 from the L-1011. Actually, Eastern had a more common fleet than American, Delta, United or Continental.

From a nine-year Eastern employee, its demise was caused by years of less than wise management decisions, union intransigence, war & recession, skyrocketing fuel costs, indifference from the White House and outright theft and deception from Frank Lorenzo and Texas Air Corporation.
I work for Southwest, but the views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Southwest.
 
airways6max
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 10:28 am

Eastern Airlines started operations in 1927 as a mail carrier, serving the East Coast, from New Jersey to Florida. For three decades, it was extremely profitable and had a lock on the Northeast. However, many of its routes were short-haul, such as New York-Pittsburgh and many were not heavily traveled. It did not have a lot of 'trunk-routes'--e.g., New York-Los Angeles.

Eastern's downfall really began in 1959, when it ordered a large fleet of the Lockheed Electra turboprop.


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At the same time, other airlines were taking deliveries of jet aircraft. On a flight from New York to Chicago, a passenger could fly on an Eastern Airlines turboprop, or an American Airlines 707. Of course, many went for the jets, so Eastern lost a lot of customers with obsolete equipment. But it was stuck with its turboprops, which no-one wanted. Things improved somewhat with the introduction of the Boeing 727 and McDonnell-Douglas DC-9. They offered jet service to small communities which normally didn't get jet service. However, Eastern did not gain ground commercially.

The 1970s were a very turbulent time for Eastern, as it coped with dropping passenger loads and the economic crises of those times, as well as weak leadership. The Deregulation Act of 1978 did not help things as there was a sudden burst of cutthroat competition among the airlines and Eastern did not have the financial resources to keep up. By the mid-1980s, Eastern operated a fleet that was obsolete and expensive to operate, yet it could not afford to buy new aircraft. By the end of the 1980s, Eastern operated planes from four manufacturers--Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas, Lockheed and Airbus.


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Things went from bad to worse when Frank Lorenzo took over Eastern. He slashed pay and benefits, demanded everyone work six-day weeks and diverted funds from Eastern to other enterprises as well as grounding aircraft. The mud hit the fan in early 1989 when pilots and machinists decided that they had had enough and went on strike. Flights were curtailed. At one point, it looked as though Baseball tycoon, Peter Ueberoth might be interested in buying the airline, but the deal fell through when the unions voted down the agreement. Now the death watch began. Eastern sold off a number of routes, including the highly profitable and innovative Boston-New York-Washington D.C. which it had begun in 1961. A spike in oil prices, due to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was the straw that broke the camel's back. Eastern ceased operations on January 17, 1991, after nearly sixty-four years of flying.
 
BillElliott9
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 10:39 am

The downfall of Eastern being traced backed to the Electra in 1959 is a stretch! Didn't Northwest and American have them, too? Didn't the Electra become the backbone of the Eastern Shuttle fleet? Although important history for the airline industry I think the starting point for why Eastern failed should begin after deregulation...Not during the Eisenhower Administration.
You can fight without ever winning but never really win without a fight.
 
727LOVER
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 12:21 pm

The fact that the guy can't get the failure date correct, tells me a lot! JAN 18, 1991.
Oh and you forget the DC-8 and B720 before the 727!
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
IMissPiedmont
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 12:30 pm

I'm totally amazed that EA flew an Electra from NYC to CHI. I never knew they operated that route, ever.

Perhaps the person who said so would be so kind as to provide service dates?

I await the answer with bated, and senile, breath.
The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
 
BN747
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Fri Aug 29, 2003 4:41 pm

Srbmod hit the nail right on the head...a few others here make a good case too. I was a large System One account (Agency owner). Although the trouble began back between Borman and Bryan..it was Lorenzo who really sent it into a tailspin. The IAM seeing Frankie boy for what he was (a corportate raider) must have smelt that Frank was gonna take the meat cleever to EAL no matter what...they just didn't make it easy for him. It's a shame too. Because this airline above the ramp..was a class act. Eastern had a strong domestic system..owned the caribbean and a good chunk of South America. Delta was a primarily a domestic player only. To think, had Borman and Bryan got it together (which was impossible)..it would be Triangle Air (Delta) who would be toast today.

BN747
"Home of the Brave, made by the Slaves..Land of the Free, if you look like me.." T. Jefferson
 
gr8slvrflt
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RE: The Downfall Of Eastern Airlines?

Sat Aug 30, 2003 7:12 am

The Electra was not a problem; it served Eastern well for almost twenty years. It was the huge order for DC-7s, Convair 440s and Lockheed Superconstellations right before the jets came in that wasn't too bright. These planes were largely used to replace older piston types (Connies and Martin 404s) that could have stayed around a few years longer. Even though Eastern cancelled its original DC-8 order to wait for more powerful engines (Delta quickly grabbed the slots), it's DC-8s entered service only four months later than Delta's. The Electras had been flying for a year at that time. Eastern never operated NYC-Chicago. Eastern quickly caught up with Delta's jet fleet by taking fifteen 720s and later the 727s and DC-9s. A bigger problem was that Eastern was continually denied long-haul routes (supposedly because Eastern's backers were big Republican supporters during the Kennedy-Johnson years). Eastern was even awarded huge Pacific and Hawaii routes in the late sixties but President Johnson vetoed the award and gave it to Texas-based American instead (American later sold the whole operation to Pan Am).

The unions did not vote down the Ueberroth plan. Ueberroth himself pulled out when Lorenzo started changing the deal after the agreement was signed--he did not trust Lorenzo any more than others did.
I work for Southwest, but the views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Southwest.

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