Eastern Airlines’ Strange New Domestic Route

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I’d consider Eastern Airlines to be the strangest actual airline in the US. I say “actual” to differentiate it from “airlines” like Avatar, Baltia, and Global Ghana.

We haven’t seen this livery in real life yet!

Well, Eastern Airlines has just filed with the DOT to operate passenger service on a domestic US route. If this comes to fruition, it will be the only regularly scheduled domestic route that the airline operates.

Eastern’s long history

First a bit of background, for those of you who have no clue about the modern day Eastern Airlines.

Many may be familiar with the original Eastern, which was a major US airline from 1926 to 1991.

In 2015 the airline relaunched (or more accurately, rights to the name were purchased), as the airline started flying 737s to the Caribbean, including Cuba. Less than two years later their air operator certificate was taken away, and they went out of business.


Image courtesy of Cory W. Watts

Then in-mid 2017, charter airline Swift Air acquired Eastern.

Swift Air 737

But then in April 2018, when Dynamic International Airways exited bankruptcy, they acquired the Eastern name, and have now branded themselves as Eastern.

Featured image courtesy of formulanone

To summarize — the airline went out of business decades ago, then the name was acquired for an airline that ended up flying for less than two years, then the name was acquired again by another airline, and then another airline acquired their name and rebranded as them. Makes perfect sense, right?

The current Dynamic/Eastern fleet has up to eight Boeing 767s, including 767-200s and 767-300s (I say “up to” because some of them are stored).

Eastern’s regularly scheduled routes

Eastern operates charter flights (both for passengers and cargo), though the airline also has two routes that they market directly, from New York JFK to both Georgetown, Guyana, and Guayaquil, Ecuador. Obviously these have been impacted by the current situation, but those have been their routes up until now.

About a year ago Eastern filed with the DOT requesting to operate a flight from New York to Jinan, China, via Anchorage. They never did follow through on that, but what a fascinating route it would have been.

Eastern files for New York to San Diego route

Eastern has filed with the US Department of Transportation requesting permission to operate a new nonstop flight between New York and San Diego.

The flight would operate 3x weekly as of June 1, 2020, with a Boeing 767. The schedule would be as follows:

  • New York to San Diego departing 11:00PM arriving 1:50AM (+1 day)
  • San Diego to New York departing 6:40AM arriving 3:10PM

It’s not entirely clear if Eastern intends to use this route to replace one of their routes to South America given current challenges with international travel, or if this is intended to be in addition to those routes.

However:

  • Do they really think the demand is there for a new 767 flight between New York and San Diego, especially when they’re going up against Delta and JetBlue, which operate up to 7x daily flights?
  • From the perspective of passengers, the schedule for these flights is awful, and the limited frequencies aren’t ideal either
  • I guess the priority here is having good aircraft utilization, because it seems the crewing here is really inefficient; crews will have 2-3 day layovers in San Diego, since there’s no way they can return on the same plane in the morning
  • Airfare is so cheap anyway, so how low are they going to price tickets to make people want to book with them?
  • I guess this route could be all about cargo?

Bottom line

To be clear, I’m not suggesting launching this route is a bad decision, or anything, but just find this to be a rather odd concept right now.

Maybe they are scoring some big cargo contract between New York and San Diego, and passengers aren’t a priority?

Because otherwise starting a 3x weekly, horribly timed, transcon flight in a market that’s already over served in the middle of a pandemic seems strange.

I’m not sure if Eastern is onto something, or if this plan is as strange as some of their past ones that never materialized. Or heck, as strange as the fact that Eastern exists at all nowadays, given how many times the name has been reused.

What do you make of Eastern’s intentions to fly between New York & San Diego?

(Featured image courtesy to SymphonicPoet)

Comments
  1. There is a takeoff curfew, but not arrival curfew in SAN. Still, I doubt that airport neighbors will be very happy to see a new landing at 2am 3 times a week!

  2. Sometimes, the simplest answer is the most obvious. And that answer is that this is a hare-brained idea with no merit……unless they snagged a cargo contract that doesn’t quite fill the aircraft but probably pays the bills. In which case, passengers would be frosting on the cake. Otherwise, it’s a terrible business plan.

  3. The westbound flight sucks but early am eastbound flight to NYC is great. You wake up at normal wakeup time east coast time, you’re a little sleepy so maybe you snooze a little on the plane, and then you’re still tired enough that when you get back to NYC you have no trouble falling asleep at your normal bedtime. It’s the perfect flight to take especially with kids.

  4. The business plan is to attract Av-Geeks who can say they flew Eastern Airlines from San Diego to JFK nonstop during a pandemic!

  5. Eastern was the first frequent flyer program I signed up with (in the 80s sometime). They mailed you a booklet of frequent flyer “forms”. Each time you flew, the check-in agent or gate agent would take one of those paper “forms” and staple one onto your red-ink carbon paper ticket. Then you hoped and prayed that you got frequent flyer credit for the flight.

  6. @Tubbs I know a lot of people love that flight timing, but i personally detest it, especially with kids (thought I acknowledge my kids are not the most normal… We prefer the redeye. Kids sleep the whole flight. With the early morning flight you are out of the house before 5am (painful) and then basically waste the entire day in the air and get into the city after 5pm. I’d much prefer to be on a redeye and have the entire day at my destination.

  7. They’re almost certainly transporting cargo on pallets that won’t fit on a narrowbody plane. They’ll take anybody that wants to go with at their awful times for some additional cash

  8. One other historical anecdote about the the first reboot of Eastern. The Trump campaign chartered one of their 737s to use a Mike Pence’s campaign plane. On Oct. 27, 2016, the plane overran Runway 22 at LGA with Pence on board.

  9. Great way to start within the domestic routes .It must start somewhere since it was given a green light to Open skies agreement.

  10. @Lucky…wish you had an emoji reply option to comments:).

    Overall, this appears to make no sense whatsoever. The volume of cargo to make it profitable even 3x weekly would be enormous if just one account, and I’m perplexed which industry/company could require that in SAN (yes, I know the SAN military presence is huge, but they would either fly cargo on their own aircraft, or if needed to charter, why would it come from JFK?).

    Their limited route network appears to be VFR focused, which is also not relevant to SAN given the other commercial NYC-SAN services.

    I did take a look at Eastern’s website, which is surprisingly attractive and well done. Love their new “Explorer” brand, it’s beautiful, and wonder how they will apply it to their aircraft, or incorporate it alongside the old Eastern “stick figure”, as they refer to it, which they say they intend to do. Definite charter focus on their website.

  11. They can base the crews out of SAN and have them continue other flights out of JFK and then return to SAN.

  12. Not to argue with Matt, but I recall a diversion of my SAN-bound flight in 2018 because we didn’t make a midnight landing curfew. Diverted to LAX and bussed down. SAN did have night time runway maintenance going on at the time, but I recall someone saying, regardless, post-midnight arrivals either not possible or subject to onerous $$$ penalties.

  13. The last time I saw Eastern Airlines planes was after landing at MIA just after it reopened post-Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (yes, there were still broken plate glass windows and gates taped off at the then much smaller Terminal B). The EAL planes were tumbled around on their sides like so many toy planes near hangars at MIA, apparently because they did not have the crew and/or money to fly the planes out before Andrew blew through while they were undergoing bankruptcy. I’m not convinced they will survive the Covid 19 hurricane either, so I’m not sure what I make of any new routes they propose to fly other than as something intended to keep still employed management busy with pretend work.

  14. NYC-SAN isn’t overserved right now – only Alaska is flying a nonstop these days. So it’s shrewd in that respect.

  15. I am stuck in Peru right now because of the quarantine. The US Embassy has arranged with Eastern Airlines to fly repatriation flights (charters?) that leave a couple of times a week. The price is $2,049.05 one way, no meal, from Lima to Miami. Several of the flights have actually gone out full as apparently many people are desperate to return home.

  16. Jet Blue is pulling out of San Diego, si Eastern may be taking the chance to capture that market, even given the current low demand.

  17. My aunt worked for Eastern from 1965-1990. Like most of the legacy airlines, it had a storied and interesting past with colorful characters that included Eddie Rickenbacker and Frank Borman the astronaut. The Frank Lorenzo years at Eastern are classic MBA case study material for those interested in airline management. I think there is a Pan Am floating around somewhere. We are familiar with the old Dynamic Airways they were headquartered about an hour from me. They got into trouble a couple of years ago when they tried to get into the market of transporting Muslims to Mecca for pilgrimages. They got upside somehow and had to declare bankruptcy. I guess the name “Eastern” evokes nostalgia and despite the original company’s demise nearly 30 years ago still has some resonance.

  18. @Leigh Why do you assume the cargo is coming from JFK to SAN, and not going the other direction?

  19. Is anyone else looking at these city connections and thinking: ‘I bet they’re carrying some special cargo… in powder form?’

  20. DCYukon. You mentioned seeing Eastern Air Lines planes in Miami, saying that: “…planes were tumbled around on their sides like so many toy planes near hangars at MIA, apparently because they did not have the crew and/or money to fly the planes out before Andrew blew through while they were undergoing bankruptcy….”perhaps you did not realize that Hurricane Andrew struck the Miami area on August 24, 1992…however, Eastern Airlines stopped flying and went out of business at midnight on Saturday, January 19, 1991… meaning Eastern was out-of-business and significantly liquidated of their aircraft starting some 19 months before Hurricane Andrew arrived in Miami…and by the time that Andrew arrived 90% of Eastern’s fleet had been either sold, sent to desert storage or to the boneyards with hardly any still remaining at MIA.

  21. This post prompted me to look at other airline websites. The majors have a cargo link.

    The most hilarious is Frontier.

    They have a “travel agent” link on their website, with a special phone line for agents…with a request for agents not to share the phone number with consumers….but it’s on their consumer website!

    Hah!

  22. @Leigh

    Do you know where the people in New York and the Northeast buy their grapes, avocados, peaches, plums, nectarines and kiwi? A lot of it is flown in from Chile. If they can afford the cost of intercontinental cargo in winter, it’s probably cheaper to ship it on just a transcontinental one in summer. California is a major fruit exporter to the rest of the country, and some of it (like vegetables and melons) could be coming from Mexico as well.

  23. The westbound flight time makes no sense. No passenger flights are scheduled to land after 11:30pm in SD even though the curfew is on takeoffs. Ive landed at 2am after delays but is it efficient to have the airport staffed for a scheduled flight?

  24. Please, understand that the former Eastern Air Lines is not at all associated or connected with the current iteration of Eastern Airlines. Please notice the different names of the companies, Air Lines vs. Airlines. All the current company did was buy the name Eastern. There is nothing else similar, routes, planes, people, not even the former, beautiful paint scheme of Eastern Air Lines. I wish them well, but it’s got nothing to do the “real” Eastern Air Lines, RIP.
    Signed,
    A 25-year ex-Eastern Air Lines employee

  25. @Ross

    It would take a month to drive or use a ship to get surface cargo from Chile to the Northeast. However, the US has much better road/rail infrastructure and the distances are much less, a truck would take 2 days from San Diego to NYC.

    Given the fact that you save at most 24 hours, the cost differential is not worth using air freight, as long as you can fill a truckload so the cargo goes direct.

  26. I would never want to fly on a plane using the name of Eastern. Yes – a long time ago (pre-1982), it was a great airline, and yes, it’s different planes & different people now, BUT …

    I stopped flying Eastern and shared a 1983 article from Aviation Week with everyone I knew – especially at work and our travel department (I worked for a major aircraft engine manufacturer, but not the one involved) since that had been our go-to airline. So what happened?

    In 1983, Eastern Airlines flight 855 lost all three engines over water (out of Miami) because the mechanics had failed to put the required o-rings on the chip detectors. So the oil blew by the chip detectors and the oil pressure for all three engines went to zero. And that was after about dozen other pervious incidents of the same issue – missing o-ring & lost oil.

    The Aviation Week article explained that the FAA gave Eastern a warning and required a maintenance card change after some previous incidents. Even after the change, Eastern had many more incidents of forgotten o-rings on chip detectors (and another “warning” according to Aviation Week) — all before the 3-engine-out flight. The FAA Maintenance Inspector was cited for not monitoring Eastern well enough.

    Here’s a link to the FAA.gov PDF explaining the issue of 3 instances (3 that they knew of because reporting by Eastern was not required, so there may have been many more?), then the maintenance card change, then EIGHT more incidents after all that attention about this maintenance issue … all before before the 3-engine out flight:
    https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/maintenance_hf/library/documents/media/aviation_maintenance/eastern_airlines_inc.pdf
    Go to the section titled: 1.17.7 FAA Principal Maintenance Inspector.

    So to me, Eastern left a very concerned, not nostalgic, feeling whenever I hear that name.

  27. I have a warm place in my memory for EA. They were my second FF program after AAdvantage who was first in. Both CO and EA were clients of mine. CO/EA’s Onepass allowed me to earn Infinite Elite which morphed into Lifetime 1K for the few of us left.

    Good luck EA, even though I know this is just an asset sale of the name and the EA swoosh..

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