Could Trump Shuttle make a comeback?

With a little more time on his hands should his legal challenge to overturn the US election result fail, could the airline Donald Trump owned in the early 1990s remerge nearly 30 years since it disappeared from the skies above New York?

Now that Donald Trump’s re-election hopes look to have been dashed, at least until the lawyers begin their work, what could the president look to do after leaving office? 

Maybe he could run an airline. 

This prospect is not quite as farfetched as it might sound. Having tried his hand at many things in the period before becoming the leader of the free world in 2016, his options could be endless. While most ex-US heads of state enjoy a slower pace of life and take up charitable causes in the years after leaving the Oval Office, Trump may take an alternative path. 

The New Yorker was a very active entrepreneur before moving into the White House and he isn’t likely to retire into obscurity and will undoubtedly re-enter the world of business. His investments – through the Trump Organization – are mainly focused on the property sector but one venture that didn’t go quite as he’d planned it was Trump Shuttle. 

Trump Shuttle
The carrier exclusively used a fleet of Boeing 727s. Wikimedia Commons/Aero Icarus

In the late 1980s, a worker’s strike at Eastern Air Lines drove the carrier to a halt and its shuttle division was the only profitable part of the business. An open auction was subsequently held to sell it off to raise capital. 

Trump had wanted an airline for quite some time – because he thought it would complement his casino arm well – and saw this as the perfect opportunity to obtain one without having to pay the initial costs of starting his own. For $365m, Trump purchased Eastern’s shuttle division using money sourced from a consortium of banks led by Citibank. 

While it ended up losing a lot of money, its failure was quite a lot to do with the circumstances of the time it was operating in. Jet fuel prices rocketed, and passenger demand slumped during the early 1990s leading to the airline becoming unviable. The carrier was eventually sold to US Airways and rebranded as USAir Shuttle in 1992. 

Gordon Smith, editor of Airliner World said: "If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. I don't think the turbulence in the commercial aviation sector is going to suddenly end come January, which is troubling for many existing firms, but also presents possible opportunities for bold new ideas. The Trump Organization already has high-profile investments in the leisure and hospitality sectors, so I wouldn't rule out the emergence of 'Trump Shuttle 2.0' if things don't work out for Donald in the election. That said, I'm not sure the Boeing 727s which operated for the firm first time round are still up to the job - perhaps he could give US manufacturing a boost by buying some cut-price 737 MAXs?"

After being stung badly from his first foray in the aviation industry, could Trump give it another go? The most likely way this could become a reality would be through a brand and licensing deal. It is questionable that he’d want to own another airline, especially after being laden with more than $100m of personal guarantees from the last attempt. 

If you would like to read all about the rise and fall of Trump Shuttle, the full article can be found here: https://www.key.aero/article/airline-trump-wants-forget 

Do you think we’ll ever see another Trump-branded airline? Let us know!