View Full Version : Eastern Airline's London route

2nd Jul 2002, 21:48
Eastern Airlines' European connection

Courtesy of Air Transport Business (http://www.AirTransportBiz.com/)

Eastern Airlines (EA) had been an historical operator on the Florida-Northeast coast market. But that market was considered as too seasonal and with a low-yield profile and EA had long sought to expand on more lucrative routes West of the Mississippi. Furthermore the tough competition following the Airline Deregulation Act of October 1978 had made a diversification on more profitable routes even more mandatory. But EA started to look at Europe as well; London was to be the first stepping stone toward a presence on other European destinations, such as Paris or Madrid.

First attempt

In July 1979, National Airlines (NA) which was operating flights on the Miami-London (LHR) route was taken over by Pan Am (PA). Since PA had already several flights to LHR from various gateways, it was not allowed by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to take-over the MIA-LHR route.

But PA was opposing vigorous defense to keep its rights on the MIA-LGW route after the take-over, since was strategically meaningful to US carriers. The first operations of National Airlines had shown the way for viable transatlantic flights from secondary US gateways at a time when only Pan Am and TWA (TW) had scheduled operations to Europe. The MIA gateway was eyed as a threat by PA which was realizing that EA would be able to feed potential European operations with its domestic flights, whereas PA had no feeding structure at JFK and had been relying on its competitors' flights for connections to Florida.

Eastern Airlines thus seized the opportunity, became a candidate for the route and was awarded rights for the MIA-LHR route. The airline subsequently leased two Boeing 747-238Bs from Qantas (QF); VH-EBC (20011/162) and VH-EBD (20012/171), to be registered respectively as N372EA and N371EA.

VH-EBD was already painted with Eastern color scheme, and the preparation process was well underway when the British authorities announced they would not allow another foreign carrier to operate into LHR since the airport was already saturated. The US Department of transportation (DoT) and the British Aviation authority (BAA) were in difficult negotiations about freeing up the air links between the two countries. The Americans argued that Eastern was in fact replacing NA. Frank Borman even came over to London to try to influence British decision. But the British didn't accept Eastern Airlines's request, since other foreign would have asked for slots at LHR, opening up the airport to wider competition, which the British did not want. This case was not extremely important in the eyes of the White House and both sides an agreement failed to reach. Moreover, Pan Am was at the time still very influential and is said to have influenced the decisions.

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