Not only do you get a Wednesday post this week, but you get a Saturday one as well. I just didn’t want to sit on this one until Monday.
When America West and US Airways merged, the airlines developed a nice nod to the past by creating heritage jets, single airplanes which would be painted in the retro colors of the airlines that came before them. The tradition carried over to American once it merged with US Airways, and now American has decided to add one more to the collection. Get ready for a Trump Shuttle 737.
The airlines that receive the royal treatment are those that were directly merged into either USAir/US Airways or American. That meant America West, Allegheny, Piedmont, PSA, TWA, AirCal, Reno Air, and of course, US Airways (after the merger into American) each had an airplane. I assume an arbitrary line was drawn around deregulation, because airlines like Trans Caribbean (which American acquired) and Lake Central and Mohawk (which went into USAir-predecessor Allegheny) were left out. But there was one that was acquired post-deregulation that didn’t make the cut: Trump Shuttle.
Technically, this was a complex acquisition. It took barely a year from when Trump drastically overpaid for the old Eastern Shuttle in 1989 before he had defaulted on the loans. The banks took over and tried to sell the prized shuttle off, but there were no takers. The creditors ultimately came to an agreement with USAir where the airline would buy 40 percent of the company and manage the whole thing, marketing it under the USAir Shuttle name. USAir had the exclusive option to buy the rest of what was then “Shuttle, Inc.” starting in 1996. It bought it outright in 1997 but continued to run it technically as a separate company until 2000 when it finally merged the airline into the parent. After the American merger, it became the American Airlines Shuttle.
That may be complex, but it was still an acquisition by USAir. Maybe it was the small footprint, only flying Boston to New York to Washington, that kept it out of the retro club in the beginning, but this oversight is now going to be rectified. I understand the livery has been adapted to the 737-800 by renowned aircraft livery designer Mark Ahasic. I’ve been able to get a copy of his drawings.
I know, I know. It’s no 727 (which the Trump Shuttle actually flew), but that obviously wasn’t an option since there are none left in the fleet. That may not be a bad thing anyway.
I asked Henry Harteveldt, Trump Shuttle’s first marketing director and now an industry analyst, whether he was excited about seeing his former brand back in the air. After a pause, he simply said “At least American won’t have to put carpeting on the rear stairs of 727s, like we had to do. We just loved having our maintenance guys walk up and down those in the snowy winters.”
With Trump becoming President earlier this year, the timing seemed awfully suspicious for this to be a coincidence, so I asked American directly why this was happening now. A spokesperson provided this quote from CEO Doug Parker. “As usual, the pilots were totally right. When I skipped the meeting between airline CEOs and President Trump back in February so I could attend our Annual Leadership Conference, I didn’t realize that it would mean all of our priorities would be pushed to the backburner. We decided there would be no better way to apologize than to paint an airplane to honor the President’s remarkable legacy as a pioneering airline executive.”
American had planned to take this even further by outfitting the interior in the original design specs, one that never came to fruition on Trump Shuttle itself. That opulent design included a marble sink fixture in the lav. But once American realized that the original design was Ivana Trump’s idea and not the President’s, it discarded that plan. The aircraft will, however, have one interior modification: a single gold-covered First Class seat which will be reserved for a very special guest….
The unveiling is expected on Monday at West Palm Beach Airport. It will primarily fly the LaGuardia to Palm Beach route, providing the First Lady Melania Trump a way to continue to avoid Washington at all costs while shuttling between her homes. American has also announced it will hire out-of-work coal miners to fly the aircraft indefinitely.
This move appears to be paying dividends already. I’m told American first approached the Trump Administration about its plans on March 20. The next day, the ban on large electronics was announced, providing a blow to several carriers about which American has been critical, including Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar. American, alongside Delta and United, has been trying to get the government to act to prevent the Middle East carriers from growing for years, and I understand a renewed effort will be launched shortly.
I asked the Trump White House for comment, and I was given a terse statement in all caps. “FAKE NEWS. TOTALLY FAKE.”
It almost never happens, but in this case, the White House spoke the truth. Happy April Fools’ Day everyone!