Eastern Airlines

I came across a DVD in my collection that contains 3 segments of the Jack Benny television show.  Two of them were from 1952 and 1953.   The third was first aired in 1965.   Its guest stars were the Beach Boys, Elke Sommer and Bob Hope.   Eastern Airlines was the only sponsor of the hour-long comedy show.  I was among many journalists who covered the rise and fall of Eastern.    The airlines commercials on the Benny show were integrated into the plot line.  For example,  an Eastern pilot and his crew came on stage to swap “funny” lines with Jack.   All the while, they were touting the virtues of flying Eastern.  Ironically, it was a pilots’  sympathy strike that forced Eastern into bankruptcy and eventually stop flying.   Eastern mechanics and ramp workers had walked out after Eastern’s  boss,  Frank Lorenzo, demanded they accept pay and pension reductions to allow Eastern to compete with lower cost airlines.  The pilots and flight attendants joined mechanics and ramp workers on the picket lines.  That was the beginning of the end for the once proud Eastern.   A small regional airline in the United Kingdom has resurrected the Eastern name and the Eastern name may also fly again in China.  But the “Airline to the Sun”, born in 1926,  has not operated in the United States since 1991.  The Jack Benny program is a  reminder of  the zenith of both Benny and Eastern.

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