How Star Trek Can Revive Eastern Airlines
How a scifi geek made Star Trek an institution and how that power can be used in business.
This is the third and probably final post I will write about Eastern Airlines for a while. (I’d like to get back to writing politics and religion.) But I wanted to explain something I’m doing that I hope you will take part in as well.
As I’ve stated before, Eastern was bought up by Swift Air in the summer. For the most part, the airline was shut down and its FAA certificate was surrended in September. There are still two Boeing 737s with the Eastern livery flying, but the company known as Eastern Airlines is gone.
Swift now owns the rights to the Eastern name. In late November and early December, I sent emails to the CEO and some vice presidents. My response was simple: that Swift use the Eastern name in some way. One of my emails got a written response. An Executive Vice President in the company told me they are reviewing the possibilities on how to use the name. Do I take their word? Yes, for the most part, but I don’t have my hopes up. The whole point was to make my voice heard.
I think writing an email can make a difference. As I said in my prior post:
I’ve written emails to leaders in Swift management and if there are enough people doing that, they might consider making a go of Eastern, maybe this time as a scheduled carrier. It could be run as a virutal carrrier. Yes, people say its hard to start a new airline, but I’ve never been one to listen to naysayers. Minnesota-based Sun Country has started, failed and restarted a number of times and it is still flying. I think that instead of looking at the odds, you have to look at what market it can fill and just try.
I believe it’s important to speak out to companies even if it seems like a waste of time, because sometimes it’s not a waste of time. Look at the case of Bjo Trimble.
Now in her 80s, Trimble is a sci-fi writer and afficianado who basically saved Star Trek. The show, which began during the 1966–67 season, was canceled after its second season. She started a letter-writing campaign to NBC to keep the show. The letter writing campaign worked because the series did come back for its third season. While it was cancelled after that season, they had enough episodes to go into syndication, which is what fueled its interest and led to the movies and subsequent series.
The reason I am engaging in this quixotic quest is that Eastern wasn’t handled well in it’s last days. After Ed Wegel left, the people in charge didn’t know how to run the airline. In a leaked email the leadership of Eastern talked about “next exciting chapter in the Eastern story.” It made it sound like Eastern was just going to have new owners, but that seemed to be crock of you-know-what. The next exciting chapter was basically to shut down. People lost their jobs because of this ineptitude.
I think Eastern deserves another chance. That’s why I wrote a letter to management of Swift Air.
The thing is, normal people can have an effect and make the Goliaths of the world to turn around. I think this can happen with writing to Swift.
You can make a difference by signing a petition that we have to send to Swift management. The hoped for goal is to have at least 500 signatures by January 31.
This is important because we need more airlines in the US market. Consolidation over the last 20 or so years have brought the number of airlines down to a handful, which means increased prices for all of us. Beacause there is less competition, there is less need to give you a competitive price. A Denver Post article from 2015 shows what is happening in the marketplace:
“Airlines aren’t going at each other like they used to,” said Mike Boyd, an aviation consultant frequently hired by airports. “They have their turf, and they very rarely go to the mattresses with one another.”
At 40 of the 100 largest U.S. airports, a single airline controls a majority of the market, as measured by the number of seats for sale, up from 34 airports a decade earlier.
At 93 of the top 100, one or two airlines control a majority of the seats, an increase from 78 airports, according to AP’s analysis of data from Diio, an airline-schedule tracking service.
Airline mergers like the US Airways-American merger of a few years back is an example of mergers benefiting the boardroom and not the traveler:
The U.S. airline industry used mergers to hike up ticket prices, a new report from ProPublica found.
The report, published Tuesday, delves into the political dealings behind the 2013 American Airlines and US Airways merger, suggesting that those against the combination of airline companies faced tremendous pressure while trying to block the deal.
Staff attorneys with the Justice Department who had built a case against the merger had documents showing airline executives bragging about how the mergers allowed them to jack up prices for travelers.
“Three successful fare increases — [we were] able to pass along to customers because of consolidation,” Scott Kirby, who would become the president of the new American Airlines, wrote in a 2010 internal company presentation.
As airlines have merged and become bigger, startup airlines have had a poor record. The last successful startup was jetBlue which started in 2000. (Virgin America started in 2007, but it was bought by Alaska Airlines in 2016.) While the record isn’t good, the flying public needs to demand more choice in flying.
With all that said, trying to save Eastern might seem a bit bonkers. No, it is very bonkers. Is this a longshot? Yes. Is it silly for a grown man to ask that his favorite airline not vanish? Probably. But Bjo Trimble’s gambit saved Star Trek. Who knows what might happen all because you took a stand.