Eastern Air Lines Shuttle

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Eastern Air Lines Shuttle (or Eastern Air Shuttle) was the brand name of Eastern's air shuttle. It began operations on April 30, 1961. The shuttle originally flew between New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Newark. The shuttle became part of the fabric of business and government travel in the U.S. northeast corridor. No reservations were needed; passengers just showed up at the terminal, and if a plane was full, another was rolled out.

The shuttle's slogan was Imagine life without us. It was sold in 1988 and in its present incarnation is known as the American Airlines Shuttle.


Eastern Air Shuttle ticket in the mid-1970s

On April 30, 1961 Eastern inaugurated the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle.[1] Initially, 95/96 seat Lockheed 1049 Super Constellations left New York-LaGuardia every two hours, from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM, to Washington National and to Boston. The shuttle flights soon became hourly, from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM out of each city.[2]

Reservations were not needed, seat assignments were not given, and initially no check-in was required and no boarding passes were issued. But Eastern guaranteed everyone a seat; if the flight was filled, another aircraft was ready to go. On Sunday after Thanksgiving 1961 the 10 PM flight between La Guardia and Boston carried 623 passengers on seven aircraft.[2]

The Shuttle peaked in January 1963, when weekdays saw hourly Super Constellations 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM each way LGA-BOS and LGA-DCA, hourly DC-7Bs 7:30 to 10:30 each way EWR-BOS, DC-7Bs every two hours 7:30 to 7:30 each way EWR-DCA and five DC-7Bs each way DCA-BOS. Fare in May 1961 was $10.95 to Boston and $12.75 to Washington, slightly below regular coach fare (passengers could pay in cash after boarding, so the fares soon dropped a few cents to $12 and $14 including the 10% federal tax).[citation needed]

Lockheed Electras started Shuttle flights in 1965 (the last Constellation flights were in 1968) and became backups to 727s or DC-9s a few years later.[2]

Later years and competition[edit]

Eastern Air Lines Shuttle ad from 1983

New York Air, a subsidiary of Frank Lorenzo's Texas Air Corporation, started a competing shuttle service in 1980 with DC-9 aircraft. Lorenzo acquired Eastern in 1986, and was forced to sell New York Air's shuttle service to Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) in order to obtain Department of Justice antitrust clearance for the transaction.[2] By 1986, the two shuttle services were in intense competition; Pan Am had a market share of around 45 percent and touted its full-service product in comparison to Eastern's no-frills product.[3]

In 1987, Lorenzo unsuccessfully attempted to sell the Eastern shuttle to his own Texas Air Corporation, apparently for the purpose of transferring cash out of Eastern in the form of advisory fees. Eastern's labor unions challenged the sale in federal court and won a judgment requiring union bargaining in connection with the sale. By that point, the shuttle was one of the few profitable operations under the Eastern brand.[4]


In October 1988, the shuttle's ground rights and 17 aircraft were sold to Donald Trump to form the Trump Shuttle.[3][5] USAir later bought the service from Donald Trump and in April 1992, the shuttle service began as the USAir Shuttle, which is presently known as the American Airlines Shuttle. (Pan Am's competing shuttle service was bought by Delta Air Lines in 1991, and became the Delta Shuttle.[2])



  1. ^ "Almanac: The Eastern Shuttle". CBS News. Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Planes Vs Trains: The Race from NYC to DC, Part One - Airways Magazine". Airways Magazine. 2014-01-09. Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  3. ^ a b Swoboda, Frank (1988-10-13). "TRUMP BUYS EASTERN'S AIR SHUTTLE". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ Stockton, William (1988-11-06). "TEARING APART EASTERN AIRLINES". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  5. ^ "Playboy Interview: Donald Trump (1990)". Playboy.com. Retrieved 2016-05-17.