Friday, January 18, 2008

Jan 18: The End Of Eastern

On this day in 1991, Eastern Airlines (the official airline of Walt Disney World in the 1970s) officially shutdown.
Originally delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service in the mid-1920s, Eastern grew into a passenger carrier and came to dominate much of the domestic travel business by the 1950s. By the 1970s the airline grew into one of the "big 4" major U.S. airlines under the direction of CEO Frank Borman (a retired astronaut).
In 1971 Eastern established service at Orlando, Florida and became the official airline of the newly opened Walt Disney World. The relationship proved to be extremely beneficial to both the airline and the "vacation kingdom." Disney World even featured an Eastern-themed ride in Tomorrowland called If You Had Wings.
If You Had Wings was a dark ride that opened in June 1972. The ride featured images of some of Eastern's tourist destinations. (All in all it was an undisguised promotion for the airline whose slogan at the time was "The Wings of Man.")
Eastern remained the official airline of Disney World until its contracting route network forced Disney to switch to Delta. Eastern dropped sponsorship of If You Had Wings and the attraction was renamed If You Could Fly.
Unfortunately the airline began to lose money and Borman agreed to sell Eastern in 1986 to Texas Air led by Frank Lorenzo. Under his tenure the airline became crippled by severe labor unrest and had to file for bankruptcy protection in March 1989.
With Eastern collapsing from debt, it ran out of money to operate on January 18, 1991.

Click HERE for more January 18 Disney history.

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