Air Transport World

The name of the game is the name: the big T of each Trump Shuttle aircraft makes it clear that corporate anonymity does not reign totally in naming airlines. (company profile)

Muse is gone and so is Laker. Braniff flies no longer. Unlike most airlines, named after points on the compass or parts of the globe, these bore the names of the men who founded or owned them. But even with their absence, corporate anonymity still does not reign totally in the naming of airlines. When Eastern sold its Northeast Shuttle operation last year, it came as no surprise that the buyer put his name on the acquisition--Trump.

As do the Trump Tower, the Trump casinos and other of the flamboyant entrepreneur's holdings, the Trump Shuttle bears the unmistakable mark of "The Donald." The tail of each Boeing 727 in the fleet is emblazoned with a big T and the red, white, black and gold livery is patterned after the markings on the owner's private 727. Refurbishing of Shuttle interiors includes lavatory vanities with a pink marble pattern--just as all 1,250 guest rooms in Atlantic City's new Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort feature marble bathrooms.

And last August, when a Shuttle flight was forced to land in Boston with the nose wheel retracted, it was Donald Trump himself, along with Shuttle President Bruce R. Nobles, who flew to Boston, held a press conference in which he praised the airmanship of the flight crew and then wrote letters to all 49 passengers.

Trump's shuttle saga began on March 4, 1989, when picket signs went up at Eastern Airlines properties. In the bankruptcy that followed, Eastern sought to sell about $1.8 billion in assets to pay off creditors and finance restructuring. On May 25, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Burton R. Lifland approved the $365 million sale of Eastern's Shuttle to Trump. Eastern, which had introduced the shuttle concept in 1961, was out of the business and on June 8, the first Trump Shuttle flights began.

Routes to LaGuardia

Eastern's troubles had helped its shuttle competitor, Pan Am, to achieve a 72% share of the shuttle market, which comprises one route between New York LaGuardia and Boston, and another between LaGuardia and Washington National.

When Trump took over, many observers predicted that he faced a long, slow job of rebuilding. "It will be relatively easy for Trump to get 35% of the market. Getting up to 45% will be more difficult," one analyst was quoted. "Eventually, the market will probably split 55%-45% in favor of Pan Am. It will take several years for Mr. Trump to develop the market."

Yet by the end of July, the first full month of service, Trump had 43% of the New York-Washington Shuttle market and 45% of New York-Boston, according to an analysis by Airline Economics, Inc., of U.S. DOT statistics. Pan Am held the remaining shares. And by the end of the year, Trump had 48% in each of the shuttle markets, with 52% for Pan Am.

Not long after the June start-up, Nobles was reported to be projecting a pretax profit of $18 million for the first year, on sales of $202 million. The favorable market share estimates suggest that those goals may have been met or surpassed but Nobles is not releasing financial-performance figures. The Trump Shuttle is a private company and it has requested confidential treatment for financial data submitted to the U. …

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