Eastern Airlines as we’ve discussed often was a major part of the growth of Florida, shuttling tourists from cold weather locations in the winter and serving as the primary driver of business travel to the state all year. From the 1930’s until 1987, Eastern was the largest airline in Florida, but by the end of 1987, Delta, long a strong number two to the state had caught ailing Eastern, opening a hub in Orlando and a larger focus city (in today’s jargon) along with a new terminal in Fort Lauderdale.
From 1979 to 1985, Eastern carried more passengers each year than any other airline in the western world. But management and labor problems intensified in late in 1985. The Texas Air takeover of Eastern in 1986 quickly hastened the downfall of the airline as assets were stripped, gates, routes and planes sold off and the airline slimmed down (it can be argued all of this was done as part of a union busting plan by Chairman Frank Lorenzo). By 1991, Eastern was no more.
1987 was really the year Eastern’s decline accelerated, best exemplified by the loss of the carrier’s status as the “Official Airline of Walt Disney World” which it had been designated since the park opened in 1971.
So let’s look at Eastern’s Florida operations, airport by airport in January 1987. The below and information and photos are from the internal employee timetable given to flight crews.
Eastern still had a healthy sized hub in Miami and large operation at Orlando, but Tampa and Fort Lauderdale had been already down-sized from their apex several years prior (though both still had a decent sized operation with 30+ nonstops) . In 1986, Delta overtook Eastern as the number one airline at FLL and would race away in the next 18 months as the aforementioned new terminal was opened.
Delta would overtake Eastern at Tampa and Orlando later in 1987 and Eastern would fall behind first Pan Am and then American at Miami in 1989.
City-by-city service from Eastern, January 1987.
Daytona Beach service- nonstops to Atlanta and Melbourne
Fort Lauderdale service – nonstops to Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Hartford/Springfield, Islip, Miami, Nassau, New York-JFK, New York-LGA, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Washington-DCA
Fort Myers service- nonstops to Atlanta, New York-JFK, Philadelphia and Sarasota-Bradenton
Gainesville service – nonstops to Atlanta.
Jacksonville – Nonstop service to Atlanta, Charleston, Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Miami and Savannah
Melbourne – Nonstop service to Atlanta, New York-LGA, Orlando and West Palm Beach
Miami service – Nonstops to Atlanta, Baltimore, Barbados, Barranquilla, Bogota, Boston, Buenos Aires, Charlotte, Chicago-ORD, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Freeport, Grand Cayman, Guatemala City, Guayaquil, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Key West, Kingston, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Montego Bay, Nassau, New Orleans, New York-JFK, New York-LGA, Newark, Orlando, Panama City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Port-Au-Prince, Raleigh/Durham, St Louis, St Thomas, St Croix, San Jose, San Juan, San Francisco, Tallahassee, Tampa, Toronto, Washington-DCA
NOTE: Despite being listed in the photo entry below Hartford/Springfield and Islip were NOT flown nonstop from Miami but was served nonstop from Fort Lauderdale with same-plane service from Miami (with a stop in Fort Lauderdale, which believe it or not was common in those days – several airlines flew MIA-FLL-Point C or FLL-MIA-Point C, similar pattern with Tampa and Orlando where airlines flew TPA-MCO-Point C or MCO-TPA-Point C ).
Orlando service- nonstops to Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Fort Myers, Hartford/Springfield, Houston-IAH, Islip, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, New York-JFK, New York-LGA, Newark, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Washington-DCA, West Palm Beach
Pensacola service – nonstops to Atlanta, Tampa
Sarasota/Bradenton service – Nonstops to Atlanta, Chicago-ORD, Fort Myers, New York-JFK, Philadelphia, Tampa
Tallahassee service – nonstops to Atlanta, Miami, Tampa.
Tampa service – nonstops to Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York-JFK, New York-LGA, Newark, Orlando, Pensacola, Philadelphia, Tallahassee, Washington-DCA
West Palm Beach service – nonstops to Atlanta, Boston, New York-JFK, New York-LGA, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington-DCA