What Does Eastern 3.0 Wants to Be?
Dynamic International Airways is now Eastern Airlines. But what are its plans? Here are some ideas.
It’s been a month since we found out that Eastern was coming back, for the third time. There has been joy as well as concerns of this new iteration. Swift Air, which bought the second iteration of Eastern in 2017, held the rights to the name. Dynamic Airways International got the right to use the name and will rebrand as Eastern (actually, it has gone even farther, not just using the brand, but calling the company Eastern Airlines LLC). A few weeks ago, I wrote about my concerns with this new Eastern and those concerns are still there. But I also want to talk about what this new version of Eastern needs to do to not end up the way Eastern 2.0 did.
Below I have some thoughts about this new airline. Now, I’m not an airline maven, I’m very much a novice. I don’t pretend that I know everything that there is to know about the airline industry. But I do have beliefs and I’d like to share them and I love to hear your views as well.
What does Eastern 3.0 want to be? What’s the reason for using the name? When jetBlue started in 2000, the drive was to “bring humanity back to air travel.” At a time when airlines gave up on the amenities and focused on price, JetBlue wanted to not only provide a reasonable fare, but to also make the flying experience a bit more special. They were tech-focused, providing seatback screens and satellite radio before the big boys noticed. Before its merger with Frontier, Midwest Express Airlines was known for giving people homemade chocolate chip cookies. What does the new Eastern want to be? Yes, it will be mostly a long-haul carrier, but what is it that people should know about it that sets itself apart?
Now, jetBlue isn’t innocent, it has had its share of problems. That was the case in 2007 when a snowstorm kept a number of jetBlue flights were kept on the tarmac for hours. How did they respond? By coming up with a Customer Bill of Rights and posted on the jetBlue website. Contrast this to what happened recently with Sun Country Airlines, which stranded hundreds of travelers in Mexico because of a snowstorm in Minneapolis and it was the end of the season for those flights. After telling travellers they had to pay to find a flight and pay for it in order to get home and then getting a ton of bad press, Sun Country has to finally reinburse people for the money they paid towards other flights (some families were paying thousands of dollars for those flights from Mexico).
Dynamic/Eastern has had a bad record and that needs to change pronto. While it had a good plan there has also been talk that Eastern 2.0 also had bad service. If Eastern needs a goal (and it does), it should come from its old slogan from the 70s: “We Have to Earn Our Wings Everyday.” No resting on legacy, no only being focused on low prices. It’s trying to earn the trust of the flying public not just once, but every time people get on the plane.
Related to determining what kind of airline Eastern 3.0 want to be is finding its place in the world.
What is your niche? Does Eastern compete directly with the big boys? Or does it find its own little niche. A 2012 NewYork Times article notes that the large airlines control many of the major airports which makes it hard for smaller startups to enter the market. That’s where the niche comes in. Airlines like Allegiant, Spirit and Hawaiian were able to carve out a business that allowed them to not have to compete with the big airlines like American, Delta and United.
Does Eastern need to fly at the bigger airports, or does it create its own niche? If it is a niche, what is it?
Think outside the box. I’m going say again, it is great to use the storied Eastern name, but for God’s sake, it is not magic. People will not just fly you for the name and not care about the crappy service. And they aren’t going to fly for something they can get anywhere else. What could Dynamic/Eastern do that other airlines don’t? What would give them the edge? What if they did something like ban carry-on luggage?
Nobody wants to spend $25 to check a bag. And as a result, we’ve all shouldered the anxiety of wondering, “Will all the overhead bins be filled?” while we suffer through the painfully slow boarding times of modern air travel.
“The answer to the problem is right in front of us,” Liddell says. “The answer is not to have bags at all in the cabin. You can have personal items, your jacket, your computer bag, but having luggage that should be checked in the cabin is totally broken.”
The overhead compartments would be vastly reduced in size to become “fedora bins,” made just large enough for the small items you carry. It’s Poppi’s most controversial idea, but it’s actually not a new one. “It was an ode to the 707,” Liddell says, “because if you look at the 707, which ushered in the jet age, that’s what they were for: a place for your hat and your briefcase, not a place to cram this gigantic rolling bag.”
Running boarding simulations, Teague found that ditching all these roller bags would expedite boarding by 71%. That saved time is nice for us, but even better for the airlines, as it would reduce the number of missed connections between delayed flights. And the smaller bins would shave 3,000 lbs. off a 777 jet, which would save a busy airline up to $25 million a year in fuel costs.
Of course, there’s still that problem of $25 checked bags–which equates to an incredible $32 billion of revenue for the airline industry each year. Airlines don’t want to lose that cash, but travelers still don’t want to pay it. Teague’s solution for the airlines? Check the customer’s bag, but if you’re going to charge, add extra service. Don’t make them wait at the carousel after their flight; deliver it to a passenger’s hotel room.
I’m not saying that Eastern has to do this. But it has to do something that is outside of the box. Maybe not charging for checked luggage could make it tempting for others to choose Eastern.
What types of planes to use? Dynamic/Eastern is currently using 767s. Old 767s. Many of them are over 25 years old. I’m not highlighting this because they are unsafe, they aren’t. But older planes tend to be less fuel efficient (a fuel prices are expected to rise). Of course, these are the planes you have, but maybe there needs to be a plan to use more fuel efficient planes in the future like the 777 or the 737. The second iteration of Eastern used 737s and these days, they are more fuel efficient than their predecessors which means they can travel farther distances (not to China from the US, but they can travel far). When Swift Air bought Eastern 2.0 in 2017, it got two 737–800s in the transaction. Could they be used for Eastern 3.0?
Where to Where? What will its route schedule be? Will it use the hub model or point to point? I’m sounding like a broken record, but Eastern 1.0 and 2.0 had its strengths in Latin America. Where will Eastern 3.0 be strong? There is some indication that Eastern Airlines LLC will drop its route to China to focus on Latin America. Will it try to fly from big American gateways like JFK or try smaller airports like New York-Stewart? Would it consider flying to smaller airports like Allegiant does? Dynamic seemed to have scattershot route map, but maybe the new Eastern will be more manageable.
Have great media. Eastern 2.0 had both a good and bad example of using social media. Actually, Eastern had a good use of media. They had people who were able to make sure the budding airline was in the news and social media. Under CEO Ed Wegel, a Facebook page and Twitter feed was up. Wegel and his team documented every little step leading towards the launch date. We saw pics of the plane that was going to be the first plane (the Spirit of Eddie Rickenbacher) as it went to Ireland to be painted and prepared. We saw the day it came to Eastern’s Miami headquarters and the celebration of the airline now being a real thing. We all followed as the sole plane went on test runs for FAA certification and then finally, it was the day in May 2015 of its first paid flight- a Honor Flight from Miami to Washington, DC. Eastern’s fan page wasn’t great at responding to questions, but they were open to show the progress of the airline.
The third version of Eastern has done very little to promote itself. Most of the news we have heard came from filings to the Department of Transportation. There has been no press releases, no social media, nothing save the title card on the easternairlines.aero website that has the logo with the words, coming soon.
Since communications is my wheelhouse, I will say that the new Eastern needs to have capable media folk, that is, if they want to be successful. Not telling people anything is not a way to create buzz, let alone generate potential sales.
Social media is a way for people to see how an airline develops, but it is also a way to show that an airline is engaged with its customers, and is willing to listen to complaints when things might not go their way. Dynamic has a good Twitter feed and Instagram Feed, and it needs to make sure Eastern 3.0 has a good and active social media presence. JetBlue is considered very good on Twitter, United rules Instagram with its “plane porn” strategy and Southwest seems great in responding to social media.
One final note. If it doesn’t want to come off like a really cheap airline, the new Eastern needs to have a consistent livery. Dynamic has various liveries and they all said “we don’t care.” Find a livery and use it for all the planes.
Eastern 3.0 is happening. But it has to really think what it wants to be and how to do it.
Originally published at www.facebook.com.