Braniff International Airways
Braniff International Airways was an airline that existed from 1928 until 1982. After it ceased operations in 1982, the Hyatt corporation bought the remaining company assets, and the airline flew from 1984 until 1989. The last link to the original corporation was forever gone until 1991, when Jeffery Chodorow tried to resurrect it. His fledgling "Braniff III" only lasted a year; Chodorow was later found to be embezzelling funds and was incarcerated.
Braniff Internationals history can be traced back to 1928, when an insurance salesman and financier named Thomas E. Braniff financed an aviation company for his brother Paul Revere Braniff. The first Braniff was named Paul R. Braniff, Inc. For the next few years, the airline would be purchased at least twice and ownership would change, but the original Braniff brothers would remain a part of the company.
The Braniff Brothers restarted Braniff in 1930 as Braniff Airways, Inc. During the 1930s Braniff Airways expanded its service throughout the Midwest. Braniffs long-term survival was assured when Paul Braniff, then General Manager, flew to Washington D.C. to petition for the Chicago-Dallas air mail route. The United States Post Office granted Braniff an airmail route in 1934 thanks to Paul Braniff's effort. In 1935, it was the first airline to fly from Chicago, Illinois to the Mexican border. This is probably where its slogan, "From the Great Lakes to the Gulf", originated. Paul Braniff left the airline in 1935 to pursue other interests, and Tom Braniff hired Charles "Chuck" Beard to run the airline's day to day operations. Beard would become President and CEO of Braniff in 1954.
In the next few years the airline acquired a other airlines, as well as new Douglas DC-2 and Douglas DC-3 aircraft. During the war era, the airline leased some of its fleet to the United States military. Facilities at Dallas Love Field and throughout the country became training sites for pilots and mechanics. During the 1940s, Braniff was allowed by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to serve the Caribbean, Latin America, and South America. These routes were served by the new and improved Douglas DC-6 aircraft.
During the 1950s the airline expanded nationwide. In 1954, Thomas Braniff died in a plane crash near Shreveport, Louisiana, and Paul Braniff died of cancer.
The Harding Lawrence Administration, a.k.a. "The End of the Plain Plane"
In 1965, Braniff's Board hired flamboyant Executive Vice President Harding L. Lawrence from Continential Airlines to become the new president of Braniff International. Over the next fifteen years, Lawrence would introduce a host of revolutionary ideas that would catapault Braniff to the front of the American consciousness – and eventually into bankruptcy.
First on his agenda was a revamping of the "staid" image of Braniff. To do this, he called on two internationally-famous trendsetters. They were noted New Mexico native & architect Alexander Girard, and the celebrated Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci. Braniff introduced these people as part of their "The End of the Plain Plane" campaign. Planes were painted in colors not normally applied to planes, including beige, ochre, orange, turquoise, baby blue, cobalt blue, lemon yellow, and lavender. (Lavender was dropped after one month, as lavender and black are considered bad luck in Mexico.) There were a total of fifteen colors used by Braniff for plane exteriors during the 1960s; many of these color schemes were applied to aircraft interiors, gate lounges, ticket offices, and the corporate headquarters. Art was flown in from Mexico, Latin America, and South America. In 1965, the BAC-111 was introduced for smaller routes and the propeller planes were retired.
In 1968, Braniff started an advertising campaign that showed the likenesses of Andy Warhol, Sonny Liston, the Playboy Bunnies, and other socialites of the time, all bragging that they flew on Braniff. Some people argued that this was gloating by the airline and was driving away customers, while others claim this was the airline's most successful campaign.
Although the exuberant 1960s gave way to a semi-conservative 1970s, Braniff managed to keep some of its style until the end.
What's A BRANwich?
Flying Colors with Alexander Calder
In 1973, Alexander Calder was commissioned by Braniff to paint an aircraft. His contribution was a Douglas DC-8 known simply as "Flying Colors". In 1975, it was showcased at the Paris Air Show in Paris, France. Its designs reflected the bright colors and simple designs of South America and Latin America, and was used mainly on South American flights. Sadly, it was painted over before the shutdown of the airline in 1982.
Calder did additional work with Braniff as well. In 1975, he debuted "Flying Colors of the United States" to commemorate the Bicentennial of the United States. This time, the airplane was a Boeing 727–200. First Lady Betty Ford dedicated "Flying Colors of the United States" in in Washington, D.C., in 1975.
When Calder died in 1976, he was finishing a third design for Braniff titled "Flying Colors of Mexico". The design was never applied to a Braniff aircraft.
Halston's 1970s with Braniff
In 1977, Braniff dropped Pucci as its designer of uniforms and such. American fashion and couture designer Halston was then brought on to bring a more American look back to Braniff. His all-leather looks were applied to uniforms and the new Boeing 727–200s and dubbed the ultra-look. His uniforms and simplistic design were praised by critics and passengers.
Also during the 1970s, Braniff introduced the Boeing 747–100 and services to Asia, Europe and the Americas. The looks and styles were changing. The Douglas DC-8s were being phased out and towards the end of the 70s, there was speculation over the purchase of new McDonnell Douglas MD-80s, Boeing 757s, or Boeing 767s.
An American Concorde Affair
Unfortunately, the Concorde service proved a fiscal disaster for Braniff. Though Braniff initially charged only a $10 premium over standard first-class fare to fly Concorde – and later removed the surcharge altogether – the 100-seat plane often flew with no more than 15 passengers. Meanwhile, Boeing 727s flying the same route were filled routinely. Consequently, Concorde service ended little more than a year after it began; although many postcards show a Braniff Concorde, the Braniff livery was never actually applied to any aircraft.
May 12, 1982 was the day Braniff Airways ceased all operations, thus ending fifty-four years of pioneering service in the American airline industry. N601BN, "747 Braniff Place" aka "The Great Pumpkin" (because it was painted orange) actually made the very last Braniff flight from Hawaii to Dallas/Fort Worth on May 13th.
But the final had come the day before on May 11, 1982. The airline's CEO Howard Putnam, who was President of Southwest Airlines from 1978–1981, left a courtroom at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York after he failed to gain an extension from the airline's principal creditors because of the massive debt built up under the Harding Lawrence regime.
Rising from the Ashes
Jay Pritzker, of Hyatt Hotels, was behind the reorganization of Braniff International and brought it out of Bankruptcy in December 1983. Braniff Airways, Inc. was then changed to "Dalfort Corporation" and a "new" Braniff, named Braniff, Inc., was formed as a subsidary of "Dalfort."
In 1988, the debts were starting to collect. It ordered Fokker 100 aircraft but could never be delivered because of a backup from fellow American carriers American Airlines and US Airways. However, 50 Airbus Industries A320 aircraft were ordered and in 1990 the first two were introduced and proved very expensive.
Braniff finally called it quits at the end of December 1990. A buyer was sought, but never found. The company then agreed to liquidate all assets in three separate auctions. America West Airlines bought and still flies the A320s. Braniff, Inc. actually existed until 1998, when Joe Mitchell and four other employees closed the airline's files.
1, 2, 3rd and Final Attempt
In 1991, Jeffery Chodorow tried to resurrect it with Boeing 727–200s and a lone Douglas DC-9, but his fledging "Braniff III" only lasted a year. It was later found that he was embezzling funds and he was incarcerated in 1996.
- BraniffPages.com – a website about the entire history of Braniff by Brooke Watts
- BraniffInternational.com – The airline's culture by Carlos Yudica
- thebranifffamily.org – Braniff employee organization run by Carl and Carrie Shea
- BraniffInternational.org – The airline's history (emphasis on 1965–1982)
- Braniff Expo – Japanese Braniff Exhibition site