Commercial aviation may be barely a century old, but few would argue that it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Flight is still the most efficient way to travel, and it’s shaped the way we interact with the world in truly dramatic ways. But just because air travel is here for the long haul doesn’t mean that there aren’t casualties along the way. Here are some once famous airlines that have failed to stay with us over the years.
Eastern Air Lines
Miami-based Eastern Air Lines was once one of the biggest players in commercial air, but it became a lesson in the powerful role workers can play in a company’s feasibility. The first cause for concern came in 1988, as more economical alternatives started to cut into Eastern’s bottom line, but it was the deregulation in the years that followed which served as the nail in the coffin. An attempt to freeze out protesting members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers led to a galvanization of multiple related unions, and Eastern Air Lines was left crippled. They were forced to declare bankruptcy in 1989 and finally ended operations at the beginning of 1991.
Braniff International Airlines
Few airlines had the flair that Braniff International did. Their colorful uniforms, designed by Emilio Pucci, especially made them stand apart from the competition. But it was the company’s notable confidence that got the best of it. An attempt at aggressive expansion in a time when fuel costs peaked and economy alternatives created a highly competitive market drove Braniff into deep debt and rapidly led to their dissolution.
Lakers Airways Skytrain
The problem with Lakers was in many ways the polar opposite of Braniff. They entered the market during the glut of new competitors in the early 1980s and promised tremendously low cost flights, often as much as half that of the major airlines. Unfortunately, the model quickly proved unsustainable, and they ended up as just another forgotten experiment in a boom notable for them.
It could be argued that Interflug was a victim of geopolitics, but there had been problems with its structure for a long time. Based out of East Berlin, its planes suffered from poor fuel efficiency and noise protection. When the Berlin wall fell, a number of airlines expressed interest in purchasing Interflug, but the airline ultimately failed to find a serious buyer.