Disney Gang No Longer Flying Eastern Airlines

Posted: June 25, 1987

Eastern Airlines has been banished from the Magic Kingdom after 15 years as one of the gang with Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.

Beginning this month, Eastern lost its "Official Airline of Walt Disney World" designation. And its popular attraction in Disney's Tomorrowland, featuring a bird's-eye film tour of North America, was closed temporarily as Disney removed any mention of the Eastern name.

Delta Air Lines will take over Wednesday as the official airline, and this week it launched a national advertising campaign touting its new association with the world of fantasy near Orlando.

Delta also will sponsor its own exhibit in Tomorrowland, as Eastern did with its "If You Had Wings" attraction.

This new-found friendship with Mickey and the gang will cost Delta between $20 million and $30 million over the next 10 years, but Delta expects the return on its investment to come in both image and more business.

"It certainly will increase traffic," Delta spokesman Richard E. Jones said.

As the "official airline," Delta gets to use that designation and Walt Disney characters in its advertising and marketing programs. It also can include admission to Disney World as part of its package tours.

When Disney World makes visitors' travel arrangements to stay in on-site hotels, the visitors automatically will be booked on Delta - rather than Eastern - flights.

Disney World declined to say which side broke off the relationship with Eastern, which began when the theme park opened 15 years ago. However, Eastern spokeswoman Paula Musto said that in recent years, "how much that association was worth was being questioned."

Such an association afforded Eastern the pleasant feelings, she said, but ''warm fuzzies are less important than direct, hard-hitting programs."

Price, rather than image, is the main marketing tactic for airlines today, Musto said. Under a recently introduced Eastern plan, children can fly to Orlando for $49 round-trip when they fly with parents who pay the airline's maxi-saver - its cheapest - fare, she said.

At least for now, getting to Orlando from Philadelphia will be more convenient on Eastern. It still offers four nonstop flights to Orlando daily while Delta offers no nonstop flights.

At Delta, Jones said flights will be added as demand warrants.

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