MIAMI — With no announcement or fanfare, Eastern Airlines and HavanaAir quietly moved their inaugural revenue flights, MIA-HAV-MIA flight to today. Flight 3145, departed from Miami at 2:26pm EST according to FlightAware. Return flight 3146 arrived back in Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport at 5:05pm.
There was very little hoopla or press presence at the airport upon boarding. Most people in the boarding area and check-in didn’t even notice anything special. Of most importance to Eastern and its new client, the first flight went out full and on-time. Onboard, the occasion was similarly downplayed with soft drinks and plantains being served on the 42 minute flights. The inaugural flights did conduct a special fly by and received a traditional water cannon salute.
The launch, originally scheduled for yesterday then pushed to Sunday, has been a moving target due to undisclosed reasons but sources cited finishing paperwork up with the Cuban authorities and TSA as reasons for the slight delay.
Eastern will operate 2 flights to Havana and 1 to Camaguey tomorrow. Moving forward, Havana will be served twice daily with Santa Clara and Camaguey receiving weekly service. The previously announced Veteran’s Honor Flight will operate Saturday MIA-DCA-MIA. The Miami Herald reports that Eastern has secured another charter agreement with “a major airline” to provide lift between the New York and undisclosed destinations in the Caribbean upon arrival of its 2nd 737-800 next month. Scheduled service is due to commence within “12 months” according to Ed Wegel the airline’s CEO.
The airline still looms very large in Miami. The South Florida city was the headquarters for the original Eastern from 1975 until the 1991 shutdown, and at one time was the largest private employer in Miami-Dade County. Miami was Eastern’s 2nd largest hub, and the center of its famed Latin American operations, behind Atlanta. Despite the very low key soft launch’ after 24 years, 4 months, and 8 days, the iconic “Wings of Man” returned to the skies.
Update: May 27, 2015:
Yesterday, Eastern tweeted out “After 24 years, 4 months and 7 days, Eastern resumes revenue flight operations tomorrow. MIA-HAV-MIA. Time to re-earn our wings…” Eastern aficionados will have to wait just a few more days for “The Wings of Man” to unfold its wings once again. Tour operator HavanaAir who is contracting with EAL says the inaugural revenue producing flights to Cuba originally scheduled to begin operating today, May 27th will likely happen by Sunday May 31st. Eastern will fly 65 flights per month for HavanaAir with twice daily service to Havana and weekly service to Camaguey and Santa Clara Cuba utilizing “The Spirit of Eddie Rickenbacker”, Eastern’s 145 seat Boeing 737-800. The new EAL operated schedules have been posted on the HavanaAir website. HavanaAir has been successfully offering charter flights to Cuba for sometime, operated by Swift Flight 737-400s, and reports that demand for the service has been high.
The Military Veteran’s Honor Flight from Miami to Washington D.C and back scheduled for this Saturday morning around 6:30AM EST looks to be Eastern’s first sortie with passengers aboard. Eastern and the Miami Airport are planning an arrival event for Saturday evening to honor the iconic airline and deserving 60 “living legends” onboard the Honor Flight. Those flights will be numbered appropriately 1941 and 1945 to honor the years the U.S. was involved in WWII. We will have a team onhand for the festivities.
Original Story: May 22, 2015
This Friday morning, the fourth floor of the original Eastern Airlines operations building in Miami which is the headquarters for the new Eastern is brimming with energy and enthusiasm. While many Americans are already leaving work early in advance of the long Memorial Day weekend, the Eastern team is hunkered down, preparing to inaugurate passenger service next week. Despite a hectic schedule, Eastern CEO Edward J. Wegel took time out of his busy schedule to give AirwaysNews an update on the status of the airline and their announcement of their first passenger service.
Proving Runs and Certification
From mid-April until May 4, the airline was busy completing proving runs that are required by the FAA in order to get its Part 121 Air Carrier Operating Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which it was awarded last week. The airline conducted proving runs to various airports including: Colorado Springs, Columbus (the birthplace of Eddie Rickenbacker), Dallas Love Field, Islip, San Antonio, San Juan, and Santo Domingo.
The airline was also granted foreign charter authority by the U.S. DOT last week.
Flight Crew Classes and Graduates
The first pilot class was made up of nine, and they graduated back in February. Meanwhile, the second class is made up of ten pilots, and they will be in the sims next week; the second class is on track to graduate by June 15.
The first class of flight attendants graduated back in February, and the second class of forty graduated on May 13 when the airline received its Part 121 from the FAA. One of the new hire flight attendants is an original Eastern Air Lines FA.
Eastern’s second 737-800 is due to arrive on property my mid-to-late June. Its third and fourth 737-800s will be brand new from a leasing company.
By September, Eastern plans to receive its fifth airplane which will be a 737-700. The airline plans to use this aircraft for sports charters beginning with “The Florida Panthers” NHL team.
The ten 737MAX aircraft it has purchase rights for will begin being delivered by the end of 2022.
“We have twenty MRJ’s on order which are due to arrive in 2019. It has the low seat mile costs of a 737-800 in a ninety seat aircraft. We can put them into secondary markets and places like Bahamas and Jamaica for nonstop lift from secondary markets. I wish I had them today,” Wegel says.
Some aircraft will be all economy while others will be mixed cabins as it will depend on the charter customers requirements.
EAL to Inaugurate Flying Next Week
Eastern has signed an agreement to support HavanaAir’s charter operations to Cuba in and out of Miami, by Wednesday of next week.
Eastern will operate twice daily service to Havana and weekly service to Camaguey and Santa Clara. Additionally, Eastern will support HavanaAir’s existing operations to Cuba with some 65 flights monthly.
A Boeing 737-800 (Next Generation) aircraft with 16 First Class seats and 129 Coach seats in the main cabin on all flights to Cuba.
“We are very pleased to partner with Eastern Air Lines. Eastern earned iconic status in the U.S. airline industry for decades and we are both honored and privileged to partner with their highly experienced management. Our partnership with Eastern will provide an entirely new level of service to Cuba with their Next Generation Boeing aircraft and their commitment to excellent customer service.” said Mark Elias, President and COO of HavanaAir Charters.
“We are excited to partner with HavanaAir Charters. Eastern was formerly the largest provider of air seats in the Cuba market, and with this agreement, Eastern will once again provide more seats to Cuba than any other U.S. carrier. Cuba is and always will be a very important market for Eastern as we grow our airline and we look forward to proving service from additional U.S. gateways along with our home airport of Miami International”, said Wegel in a press release.
The two airlines plan to also launch service from other U.S. gateways within 60 days.
Next Saturday, the airline will fly sixty American Military veterants on a special Honor flight from Miami to Washington DCA airport.
Looking Into the Future
When Wegel was asked where he sees Eastern one year from now, he replied: “We will always have a charter division, but we will begin to move into schedule operations in 12 months. This will happen once we conclude another round of equity raising.”
Wegel declined to disclose further details on scheduled operations such where Eastern may serve or the business model they will adopt; however, he did say that “We are not an LCC. We have the benefits of a legacy airline brand with new entrant costs.”