When Harding Lawrence was head of Braniff he went nuts and over expanded Braniff's route structure with the beginning of of deregulation applying for more routes than Braniff could fly. Just to keep them Braniff needed to fly red eye flights with little or no passengers. That was the beginning of the end of the original Braniff. Northwest applied for about four routes.
Harding Lawrence killed Braniff.
Not really, IMHO. I worked for Braniff in Dallas from 1972 to mid-1977 A lot of things killed Braniff. If any of them had not happened, Lawrence would have ensured the company's success. However, the PATCO strike, and the Iranian situation caused a recession in the US, including high oil prices, etc. Braniff had a very efficient fleet (all 727-200's in their Domestic/Mexico operations, the DC8-62's (and a few old DC8-50's) for South America, and the 747's for Hawaii and Europe. The thought was that (a) they had to get big to survive, and, also, American had moved their headquarters to DFW, and basicaly overlaid Braniff's route map.
Braniff 2 should have succeeded, except for a corrupt manager who ended up going to jail for a number of things.
Braniff was unique in the industry. I think that the only other airline that came close to their marketing and service was probably Continental (which is not a surprise because Lawrence came from CO). I think personally that Howard Putnam, while a nice guy, didn't understand what he was getting into when he came to Braniff and he was not up to the job.
Don't forget, Braniff was the first deregulation knockout. We hadn't seen anything like that in the U.S. before, and nobody knew how to handle it. Braniff had been in merger exploration with Pan Am and Eastern before they failed, and they probably would have also been a good match for TWA. But, as you know, none of them is still around. They were also trying to reboot as a new division of PSA, but that fell apart as well.
I miss Braniff. They had a lot of firsts, and were a family.