MIAMI — Eastern Air Lines announced it has placed an order for up to twenty Boeing 737 aircraft on Thursday.
The order is split between a firm commitment for ten Boeing 737-800 Next Generation and options for up to ten Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets. The deal is worth nearly $2 billion at list prices, though discounts off sticker price are common. A delivery schedule was not provided, though the carrier’s website says first delivery is expected in the “late summer of 2014”.
The airline had been previously seeking to raise capital through a Private Placement Memorandum. Recent filings with the Department of Transportation (DOT) indicate that process was recently completed, though it was unclear how much money was raised. Also unclear is whether the airline’s original plan to operate Airbus A320 aircraft were still in place. Calls to the airline were not immediately returned.
Eastern filed initial paperwork to begin operations with the DOT on January 28th of this year. It intends to operate charter and wet-lease operations out of Miami International Airport beginning as early as December, 2014. It does not appear to have begun the certification process with the FAA.
Unfortunately acquiring aircraft does not guarantee the airplanes will ever get off the ground. The road ahead remains long, as the carrier still must acquire certification approval from both the DOT and FAA, a process that can drag on for years.
Just ask California Pacific. The fledgling start-up managed to acquire an Embraer 170 in 2012, and the airplane hasn’t flown for the airline since. The hold up? The airline has yet to acquire FAA certification after being met with years of delays. The FAA cited resource constraints as the primary driver of the delays, and recently terminated the would-be carrier’s FAA certification process, according to DOT filings.
Should Eastern ever take-off, it would revive one of the aviation world’s most iconic names. Eastern Air Lines already existed from 1930 until it went bankrupt in 1991. During its stint the airline pioneered the now popular east shuttles between New York, Boston, and DC. The 727 found its launch customer in Eastern. Additionally, it was the first American carrier to operate the Airbus A300, a order of which is largely thought to be a major driver behind the airplane’s eventual success. At its height it operated seven hubs, the largest of which was its Miami headquarters. It went insolvent after prolonged labor troubles, and high fuel prices.
The new Eastern is not legally affiliated with the original iteration. It maintains the same branding, however, thanks to the new Eastern’s ownership group acquiring the defunct carrier’s intellectual property several years back, in 2009. According to the new Eastern’s website, its first plane will be named after long-time CEO of the original, Eddie Rickenbacker.