Editorials

July 9, 2015

Remember That One Time Donald Trump Owned an Airline?

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Written by: Gabe Andino
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Donald Trump has been all over the news cycle recently after announcing his bid for the presidency followed up by inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants that have led to all kinds of fallout. Given all the attention The Donald has been getting, we here at NYCAviation decided to jump on the Trump Train and highlight his connection to the aviation industry.

Trump has had his hand in many business ventures: real estate, hotels, casinos, golf courses, beauty pageants, reality TV and pro football among others. However, 26 years ago he added airline owner to his vast resume when the Trump Shuttle took to the air. The northeast shuttle service, which was formerly operated by Eastern Airlines before being sold off to Trump, started out with the grandiose flair that Trump is known for though it would ultimately only last for three years.

The Eastern Airlines Air Shuttle began life in 1961, connecting New York LaGuardia, Boston and Washington National with hourly flights. The unique aspect of the service was that no reservations were needed; every passenger was guaranteed a seat on each individual flight, even if an extra plane had to be brought out to fly just one extra passenger.  Eastern created a dedicated subfleet for the shuttle consisting of DC-7 and Constellation propliners that had been recently replaced in mainline service by jets along with crews that only worked Shuttle flights. The service was an immediate success and within a few years had evolved from being operated by Eastern’s older props to 727s, DC-9s and later for a short period widebody A-300s.

Boeing_727-254,_Trump_Shuttle_AN1215546

The Trump Shuttle had a fleet of Ex-Eastern 727-100s and -200s.

Eastern’s labor troubles and bloated cost structure began to put a real strain on the airline’s finances in the mid-‘80’s. Sensing an opportunity, Pan Am started up a competing hourly shuttle service that became an immediate success. When Texas Air Corporation bought Eastern in 1989 the labor situation had become untenable.  CEO Frank Lorenzo refused to negotiate with the labor unions leading to a strike that effectively shut the airline down. With the airline hemorrhaging cash, Lorenzo began selling off assets including the prized Shuttle operation. Donald Trump placed a winning bid for the Shuttle, its aircraft and landing slots at LaGuardia and National for $380 million dollars that was financed through no less than 22 banks. The newly branded Trump Shuttle took the skies on June 7, 1989.

Trump immediately put his signature over-the-top style into the airline in an effort to win back customers who had left for Pan Am and Amtrak. The 727s inherited from Eastern were repainted in a sharp new livery. The interiors were refurbished to include maple wood veneer, chrome seat belts, and gold lavatory fixtures. The airline introduced a number of innovative amenities, including self check-in (the first airline to offer this) and partnering with a company called LapStop that rented laptop computers to passengers. Trump aimed to introduce high luxury to flights that were usually under an hour in length.

Timing is everything in business, and unfortunately for Trump he entered the airline game at the wrong time. The US entered an economic recession in the late-‘80’s leading many corporations to cut back on business travel. In addition, tensions in the Middle East leading up to the first Gulf war caused oil prices to spike. This 1-2 punch was devastating for the airline industry and led to the demise of a number of airlines including Eastern and Pan Am. Given these circumstances, the Trump Shuttle lost money, and with Trump continuing to accumulate debt in his other ventures it was becoming increasingly difficult to pay back the loans taken to purchase the airline.

The Trump name still gets airborne on his personal 757. (Photo by Matt Molnar)

The Trump name still gets airborne on his personal 757. (Photo by Matt Molnar)

In an effort to drum up business, Trump guaranteed that all Shuttle flights would arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time or passengers would be compensated. This was a foolish proposition for sure, as the northeast corridor airports were –and still are- very congested with delays being commonplace. The guarantee didn’t last long, and soon after the Trump Shuttle began to reduce its schedule in the face of mounting losses. In September of 1990 Trump defaulted on his loan and control of the airline went back to the banks led by Citibank. Unlike most other airlines that failed during this time period, the Shuttle was still a valuable asset given its business-oriented customer base and access to slot-controlled airports in New York and Washington.

Citibank put the airline up for sale, and after some lengthy negotiations with Northwest and American, settled on a deal with USAir Group. The company would take 40% ownership of the airline for 10 years, while managing the airline’s operations under the USAir Shuttle brand. The same deal gave USAir the option of buying the entire operation outright after five years, which they did in 1997. In April 1992 the Trump Shuttle was no more.

Despite the failed venture, Trump’s name can still be found on an airliner today: his own private 757. Given his presidential aspirations, some have dubbed the aircraft “Hair Force One.”

Gabe Andino is an Associate Editor for NYCAviation.com, aviation enthusiast and airport management professional residing in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter 



About the Author

Gabe Andino





 
 

 

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  • speedbird1

    Nice article. Well-written. I remember his shuttle back in those days. Good memories of the great days for spotters at JFK.

  • PI by Nature

    His airline may have flopped, but the concept lives on today and two airlines still fly it very much…Delta and American. (Through mergers and acquisitions, the Trump Shuttle is now part of American Airlines.)

    • Lorraine Waxman

      But the airlines now, and since 1992, have nada to do with Trump.

      • pdpauldubois

        which explains their success.

        • LarryNC

          hate much?

          • Pat Long Eroh

            Telling the truth is now hate? You’re the hater LarryNC

  • speedbird1

    Interesting. We saw Trumps 757 a few years back at LGA Kids Day.

    • JzzE1 .

      Are you referring to is private plane?

    • Lorraine Waxman

      His name is attached to many companies he does not own or have a penny in…for example, when campaigning in Hawaii last month, he referenced how ‘he employs thousands of workers at the Trump hotel here.’ He does not and never has owned that hotel, nor has a single dollars in it. This is Trump’s version of reality.

      • Shaniqua

        lorraine, you prove to hate a good guy named Trump so much, YOU refuse to believe the TRUTH about him. Just go away

        • Can you prove she’s wrong? You need to show evidence of truth.

  • Shaniqua

    so, explain this: Trump has helped many Americans, and NEVER got credit for it….another testimony……Al Closson This is a Must Read! In 1991, at the end of Desert Storm, a 19 yr old US Army Cavalry Scout Private who had just spent 8 months at war sat out on a street at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. He sat there on his duffle bag with his Battalion around him for 4 days waiting for the buses to come and take him to the King Fahad Airport so he could go home. Unfortunately, the politicians of the day never planned for how to bring so many soldiers home after the war ended so there was a shortage of planes. Politicians are great at talking, but terrible at doing. Finally, the buses came, and took the young man to the airport. The planes waiting were from Tower Air. The owner of Tower Air had volunteered his planes and staff to bring soldiers home for the cost of fuel only. Happily, the young veteran got home just in time for Easter weekend in 1991, and spent that time emotionally healing with friends and family surrounding him. That Private was me. The Airline owner – Donald J Trump. That is why I will vote Trump. Loyalty for loyalty, respect for respect. Any questions?

    Written by Ron Knouse

    • So, to explain this…

      First, Donald Trump had zero to do with Tower Air. Unless he was an investor, he was still not in management in any other way. He was definitely not making company decision.

      For the flying Tower Air was one of MANY airlines that were actively operating troop transport both before and after Desert Storm, as they were and are still doing now for Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as DoD charter.

      So that story…is very, very wrong.

      • shirleypatriot

        Better read the above article again. Trump did have ownership from 1989 to 1992.

        • Ray, 2nd of S

          The only “article” claiming that Trump owned Tower Air is a cut-and-pasted comment. The actual main article above about Trump Air does NOT mention Tower Air even once. Please note the sentences that give Trump Shuttle’s start and end dates, which I believe are the ones you cited:

          -> “The newly branded Trump Shuttle took the skies on June 7, 1989.”
          -> “In April 1992 the Trump Shuttle was no more.”

          Best I can tell Trump Shuttle was NOT Tower Air, nor was Tower Air was NOT Trump Shuttle. Please refer to some actual journalism-based article if it exists (and not some would-be meme, please) where it actually says that Trump owned and/or operated TOWER Air.

          In other words, I *did* read the article.

          • Ted Schroeders

            but, but, but i read it on the internet! it MUST be true!!!

          • Karkal

            lol, everything on FB is true. This is where Trump learns everything, “all I know is what’s on the internet.” actual quote from Trump.

          • Robert Stone

            Well maybe the guy writing the story got the name of the airline wrong. maybe he meant Trump Shuttle not Tower Air. People make mistakes.

          • Ray, 2nd of S

            Even if that were the case, Trump Shuttle was an air shuttle, as in a smaller airline that specialized in relatively shorter flights, probably an hour or less. Possibly not what one is looking for to get across a continent and then an entire ocean to get back to the U.S. of A..

          • Karkal

            By the time the soldiers started coming home Trump SHUTTLE was already on the brink of collapse.

        • Jim Davis

          Its a hoax.

        • Jim Davis
    • JzzE1 .

      You cut and pasted this word for word from the internet, where is your proof that one single word is true?

      • Shaniqua

        there’s plenty of proof. saved a farm, saved a child by using his airplane to get them to a hospital out of state where the needed medical procedure needed to be done. In the 90’s and 2005 he went before congressional meetings fighting for US and against bad trade deals, govt waste, higher taxes.

        • Please provide said proof!

        • JzzE1 .

          I did some looking and I’m just not seeing that. . . bye girl

          • Shaniqua

            You are choosing ignorance/to be blind to facts in this matter. It’s obvious if you just open your mind/eyes.

          • JzzE1 .

            No, I just don’t choose to see what YOU want or think the way YOU want me to, that does not make me blind nor ignorant (nor does it make you right). In fact it makes me quite immune to ever becoming a sheep. I am entitled to my opinion as are you and so far, I have not disrespected your right to be wrong but you are seriously bordering on disrespecting mine. I watched your little video and I checked the links you suggested, and I remain unconvinced. . . So, before this discourse deteriorates any further, lets just end it here. You believe what you want and you vote the way you want as is your right. But you are not allowed to trample on my rights to do the same. Namaste.

          • Shaniqua

            yet YOU choose to refrain from actually researching and becoming informed through reality, fact, and truth.

          • The original story you posted was flat wrong, and the only thing you provided for other, unrelated topics was a 30 minute video…really expect us to watch all of that?

            As if learning of ONE good deed the guy did would counter all of his other racist, hateful, ignorant babble.

          • JzzE1 .

            I watched most of it, it was just a long self serving mouthful of mashuganah about how great he thinks he is.

          • JzzE1 .

            you have ventured across my line. I listen to your video, I went to your links. I remain unconvinced. based on my research which is bound in reality,, fact and truth. You however continue to hurl vagaries and supposition based on the options of others posted on the internet. It’s time to move on…clickbye girl..

    • Lorraine Waxman

      Read above. Ron Kno( no) Use story is full of lies. Check out the facts.

    • Jim Davis

      The comment comes from a web hoax. There are two of them going around….one began in email form, the other was a soldier/marine on Sean Hannity’s show talking about it too. Remarkably the stories are darn near identical….but two different guys…and neither can be proved. I’ve read at least 3 different fact-checking website…and they all agree its a hoax. Let someone ask the thin-skinned GOP candidate to tell us all whether its true or if its false. And let the relevant investigations begin.

      • Shaniqua

        where have you been? It has already been VERIFIED AS TRUTH! Maybe just because you hate someone, you shouldn’t be lying about them.

        • JzzE1 .

          Still waiting for you to provide the link where it can be verified. Because so far, nope…not seeing it.

          • Karkal

            It can’t be verified because it is a big fat lie. I can find nothing that proves it is true.

        • Karkal

          It’s a hoax, there is no site that verifies this big fat lie. Did the research for you https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_Air

          • Shaniqua

            liberal wikipedia. lol

          • Karkal

            I am not liberal for one thing and it was in numerous other places that have no affiliation to wikipedeia, lol.

    • bob
    • Karkal

      You must believe anything on FB. I did the research for you, that letter is a hoax. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_Air

  • There is a story that he flew out marines from Saudi Arabia when they were not picked up. Anyone know about this?

    • Ray, 2nd of S

      Snopes.com looked into this, and found “no evidence linking Trump to the company [Tower Air] in any capacity during its operational years.” (http://www.snopes.com/trump-tower-air/)

      • shirleypatriot

        Better read the above article again. Trump did have ownership from 1989 to 1992. As usual snopes is a leftist propaganda website and will never give any credit to any Republican or conservative.

        • Ray, 2nd of S

          To repeat what I said in separate reply, the Actual main Article above is about Trump Shuttle and does NOT mention Tower
          Air even once. Please note the sentences that give Trump Shuttle’s
          start and end dates, which I believe are the ones you cited:

          -> “The newly branded Trump Shuttle took the skies on June 7, 1989.”
          -> “In April 1992 the Trump Shuttle was no more.”

          And best that I can tell Trump Shuttle was NOT Tower Air, NOR was Tower Air ever Trump Shuttle.

          As for the “Snopes not giving credit to any Republican or conservative”, have you bothered to scan articles from their Politics section (http://www.snopes.com/politics/politics.asp) to “confirm” that? They’ve debunked several not-at-all-flattering wrongly attributed quotes or actions from Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney (though not the “dog on a car roof” thing), John McCain, Rick Santorum and George W. Bush. Snopes also took apart a so-called study that claimed Bush had the lowest IQ among the last 50 years worth of Presidents at http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/hoaxes/presiq.asp .

          I’m not going to clutter up the article with a lot of specific individual links, the two I put in the above paragraph will do. I’m not going to turn this place into Political Name-Calling Theater which I doubt the editors would like. I’m just going to say that one should indeed read an article (especially one that lists sources that one could look up) before claiming that it was wrong or someone else got it wrong. That includes articles about Trump Shuttle that don’t mention Tower Air. Thank you.

        • Lorraine Waxman

          What about the facts: Khobar Towers did not exist at that time. By the way, Snopes is owned by a Canadian woman and her husband.

          • jafstraycat

            Khobar Towers still existed. You may notice that the term is plural. Only one building was destroyed. Snopes is purely left wing propaganda.

          • Again, kinda don’t care about Snopes. We ourselves are saying that Trump never did what was claimed above. No one has shown ANY evidence of it at all, because it never happened.

          • jafstraycat

            Trump’s campaign has confirmed the story… with pictures.

            http://dennismichaellynch.com/trump-sent-private-plane-to-get-american-troops-home/

          • Yeah. They are trustworthy.

            Again, his planes weren’t physically capable of doing this.

          • jafstraycat

            Since you refuse to take the Trump campaign’s word for it, maybe you’ll take Corporal Ryan Stickney’s word for it. It can all be confirmed through multiple resources, but you’re free to believe whatever you choose.

            http://www.hannity.com/articles/election-493995/200-stranded-marines-needed-a-plane-14727522/

          • You actually proved the opposite, because the original story said Trump flew soldiers who were stranded in the Middle East, not North Carolina. Also, the person in the article even confirms it was heresay. Airlines involved in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet operate these flights all the time, for pay, and there is no indication Trump did this out of charity. Again, no evidence, and.now the story is changing.

          • jafstraycat

            Sorry…. got busy there for a moment.
            I didn’t respond to your questions about the 727 flight range because I thought they were irrelevant. I didn’t realize we were talking about the middle east here. I thought we were discussing the soldier’s story regarding Trump as being true or false. My above comment regarding the Khobar Towers may have misled you along the lines of this being about the middle east. I apologize if it did or if I was arguing a moot point. I was trying to make a point about Trump not being the monster that the left wing media is portraying him to be. Please accept my apologies.

          • Maximus Max

            IT’S A DIFFERENT FUCKING STORY! HOW IS THIS SO HARD???

        • Maximus Max

          NO! Trump air was not Tower air. Can anybody even read any more?

        • Thomas S

          Trump owned what had been the Eastern Airlines shuttle, not Tower Air! He had no capacity to fly transatlantic let alone to the Middle East. The first version of the story was that he flew Marines back from sat Arabia, in a later version that Hannity supposedly verified he flew them from South Carolina. Either way I believe it’s all fabricated, and I’m even a trump supporter

    • JzzE1 .

      It isn’t true

    • Lorraine Waxman

      It is not true. Here are the sources: Snopes.com and TruthorFiction.com. In addition, the story makes reference to standing in front of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia a week before Easter, when a month earlier, said Towers was hit by an Iraqi Scud Missile , which killed many American service people and completely destroyed the high rise to rubble.

      • Dan Lockhart

        Yeah… you can believe everything snopes.com posts… because it’s the internet.

        • Lorraine Waxman

          Did you actually read the whole post or do any research on your own, or do you just naysay?

      • Chilibreath

        Sounds like you really got a “woody” against Trump… why is that?

        • charles freeman

          He’s an ass.

      • William Lingenfelter

        I was stationed at Al Khobar Towers in 1990 and acutally left there to the interior of Saudi Arabia one month before the Scud hit. Al Khobar was not one building; it was an entire apartment buidling complex. The Scud didn’t destroy the entire complex.

      • jafstraycat

        Anyone who uses Snopes to verify accuracy of anything is using a left wing rag. The info that Snopes patently proclaims as false had one small piece of false info in it referring to Tower Air. Snopes called the whole thing false because Trump never owned Tower Air. Well, duh. Trump owned and operated Trump Shuttle between ’89-’92. The rest of the info in the article regarding the service men returned to US soil was absolute truth. Know your facts or use a better resource.

      • Maximus Max

        This was a different, earlier story about just 1 soldier.

      • David Shelmerdine

        SUCH A HATEFUL JEW..GO DIE

    • Maximus Max

      That’s how I found this story, following comments about that story. I’ve still seen no verification other that Dennis Lynch and Hannity.

    • L Margaret

      My dad worked for Tower Air throughout the 80s until the early 90s when the owner, Morris Nachtomi, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. He was very disheartened to see anyone trying to attribute any credit to Trump for what he considers the best company he’s ever worked for.

  • Lorraine Waxman

    I do not understand: why don’t you check out the facts? Are you afraid or don’t want to do the work? You cannot have a democracy without an educated public.

  • Lorraine Waxman

    I really do not understand Trump supporters. This is a man who has said the Mexican government is secretly trying topple the U.S. by sending spies and criminals here, that climate change is a Chinese conspiracy, that women who get an abortion should be punished, that Ted Cruz’s father was an ally of Lee Harvey Oswald, that Taiwan, South Korea and Japan should get nukes, that we should nuke ISIS( no thoughts on radioactive clouds?), that Mexico will definitely pay for a wall, that China and Russia will bow to him, that Muslims cannot enter the U.S , and wants to impose a 35% import tax on any product entering the U.S. Oh, and let us not forget he is going to deport 11,000,000 illegal aliens, despite the cost on our economy and the impossibility of execution. A man who insults almost everyone, who talks about the size of his penis, has cheated on all of his three wives, never presents a cogent plan for anything, has a monumental ego, has not released ANY tax returns, has had 13 bankruptcies( incl. ones he sold his name to), and someone who never makes any significant donation to charity even though he can. He is raising money through super packs, has absolutely no experience in the necessary quarters, no understanding of the geopolitical landscapes and histories around the world,and you like him because?…? because he is not part of the ‘establishment? ‘ what a hollow reason compared to the list above. Insanity rules.

    • ssinski

      I just have to say don’t trust snopes it was not always a leftwing Website. I once had a Facebook friend who kept posting Snopes articles that were all anti-obama or false black statistics using names of black scholars but taking things out of context.

      Won’t dispute perhaps that snopes got better & trustworthy over the years but they still are not very trustworthy.

      • deborah ji

        Snopes cites their sources, but if you don’t trust that site, there are plenty of other trustworthy sites that do cite their sources. That’s what you should watch for. Articles that do not back up their claims are questionable.

  • Lorraine Waxman

    Thank you, first, for serving our country. Recently, a very close friend of mine, a Lt. Col., who had just finally retired, died as an indirect result of his service, and I think about him and others frequently, so hats off..
    The article I read claimed Al Kohbar was leveled to the ground, with just mounds of dirt and cement remaining. Therefore, my impression. Nonetheless, I stand by my stance on Trump: he is not a charitable man.

  • Lorraine Waxman

    I certainly checked other sources. Truth or Fiction, and articles in re Trump and his supposed charitable act, and nada..nothing. Truth or Fiction had it as false, and Snopes being a left wing rag is laughable. It is owned by a Canadian woman and her husband, who may be an American. They live in Canada. You are buying into yet another rumor. Show me a legitimate news article about this supposed act. Trump does not even give to charity. The Trump Foundation is supported solely by his business customers. He does not contribute a dime. IF his tax returns EVER are made public, we will see how much he actually took out of his billionaire pocket .

    • Karkal

      Looked up Tower Air on Wikipedia no affiliation with Trump. Looked up Trump shuttle and saw the true story of somebody who has no clue about running a business makes me wonder how fast he will default on Americas credit.

      • sonnyboy1

        Our credit is already in the toilet. Within a few years we will be bankrupt, no matter who becomes president.

        • Karkal

          actually our credit is still better than Trumps credit, he can only borrow from Russia, we can still can get money from China.

      • JoDean

        How can he default on something we DON’T have? Ppl thrive on propaganda in this country and are willing to believe just about anything. I haven’t been able to find anything positive about either candidate. Hopeless is the word that comes to mind.

      • Jonathan Scott

        many airlines went out of business at that time .

  • Jennifer Love Mendenhall

    A picture says a thousand words.

    • Lorraine Waxman

      Maybe you should remember how just recently Trump was shamed by Vets into paying his pledge? He reneged. He is a sham in every way.

      • Jennifer Love Mendenhall

        Ok, first of all, who contacted Trump and informed him that his part had not been received exactly? Not the vets. Get it straight. What was Trumps response to that? I believe he made it right. He dug into his own pocket and all you can do is gripe he didn’t do it fast enough.

        “So you gave a million dollars of your own money to help veterans but, but you didn’t do it fast enough… so so you are a bad guy!” Really?

        I love the protest where Hillary could only find 12 Vets, I think, that she could pay to demonstrate in front of Trump Tower. Were they even really Vets or did they just say they were? Either way kinda pathetic when you think how many Vets there are in this country. 12? There is some strong Veteran support. lol!

      • Jennifer Love Mendenhall

        Maybe you should watch the video from the Retired Marine First Sergeant that just reamed the pathetic liberal media reporter for this very same narrative they are trying desperately, though sadly, to start!

    • JzzE1 .

      And one of those words is “photoshopped” Now, on to the other 999 words.

  • Jennifer Love Mendenhall

    Veterans have long memories. When these vets needed someone Trump was there. When the people in Benghazi needed Hillary????

  • Lorraine Waxman

    Do we have one live, verifiable person who flew on that plane that Trump supposedly sent, and was Trump paid for that flight, if it even even occurred. Much is unknown and cannot be substantiated. Rumor is just that.