Eastern Air Lines is back in the air

Story highlights

  • Revived Eastern Air Lines will be based in Miami
  • It will start with charter flights and build to scheduled service
  • Airline went bankrupt in 1986, but new group bought rights to the name
"America's favorite way to fly" has returned.
Eastern Air Lines, which used that slogan in the 1980s, flew its first of 20 new planes into Miami International Airport on Friday afternoon. The event marks a relaunch of the once-bankrupt airline, which last flew in 1991.
According to an airline spokesperson, Eastern is now expected to take to the skies in March 2015 as a charter airline. That date is a few months delayed from the original hopes of CEO Ed Wegel, who said in January that the airline would start flights this month.
In recent months, Eastern has ordered a fleet of 737-800 Boeing aircrafts. It has also held hiring events for flight attendants, as well as started the application process for pilots. On its website, Eastern says it will initially hire 10 captains and then add 25 to 30 pilots.
Eastern Air Lines Group filed an application with the Department of Transportation earlier this year. It will be based in Miami, where Eastern was headquartered from 1927 to 1991, when it was the largest employer in what was then known as Dade County.
Wegel also said no decisions have been made on initial routes, but that the airline plans to restart as a provider of charter services initially and then build into scheduled service at a yet-to-be-determined date. He said the group bought the rights to the Eastern name and logo out of bankruptcy court in 2009, but it had to wait until now to find the investor support needed to restart the airline.
"When you look at history since '78, how many airlines started, how many didn't make it, it's not a business for the faint of heart," Wegel said in January. "But we believe there are opportunities that will present themselves for us once we show we are a good airline operator."
According to the group's website, Eastern was founded in 1927 and adopted its name in 1930. It was a major carrier along the East Coast, pioneering the shuttle service from New York to Boston and Washington.
Wegel said there were years in the 1980s when Eastern had the most passengers of any U.S. airline, because of the shuttle and its extensive Latin American route system. "We've done extensive surveys and polling on the name," he said. "It has 80% recognition in Miami, and overall it has very positive name recognition still."
The airline was sold in 1986 and filed for bankruptcy protection in 1989. Labor unrest and a drop-off in air traffic associated with the January 1991 Gulf War forced it out of business.