Nearly 24 years after the original Eastern shut down on January 18, 1991, the new Eastern Airlines returned home to Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 at 3:13 p.m. local time on Runway 8R to a water-cannon salute with its first new aircraft ; a Boeing 737-800 “The Spirit of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker”.
Eastern Airlines was one of the “Big Four” airlines (along with United, Delta and American) that dominated the passenger airline business in the United States for nearly 50 years created by the Air Mail scandal of 1930, and was headed by World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker in its early years. Eastern Airlines was a major American airline from 1926 to 1991.
As a native Miamian born in the last 1970’s its was a welcome site to see the reincarnation of Eastern Airlines. Eastern Airlines meant so much to the residents and community of what was then known as Dade County now Miami-Dade County; to see its rebirth is a absolute trill. Miami was the original Eastern’s headquarters, and the carrier was the city’s largest employer from the mid-1970s until its 1991 shutdown.
The ownership group, Eastern Air Lines Group, purchased the intellectual property, including trademarks, of the original Eastern Airlines in 2009, and announced in early 2014 that it had filed an application with the United States Department of Transportation for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which would be followed by certification with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The new airline began operating charter flights between Miami and Cuba in partnership with Miami based HavanaAir Charters utilizing Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 (Next Generation) aircraft out of Miami International Airport in 2015. The first flight to José Martí International Airport in Havana departing on 28 May 2015.
While the company initially will operate as a charter provider, long-term plans call for Eastern to offer regularly scheduled passenger service with a focus on Latin America. Scheduled service is planned to follow 12 to 18 months later. Ed Wegel, the CEO heading Eastern’s start-up effort, told the Miami Herald he hoped to position Eastern “somewhere in between” the ultra-low-cost carrier niche — which includes airlines like Spirit and Frontier — and the traditional legacy carriers, such as American, United and Delta.
The new Eastern Airlines operates out of Building 5A at Miami International Airport. The building formerly housed the system and maintenance control centers of the original airline. The inaugural flight to Cuba was made possible by the Cuban Thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba.