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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

BRANIFF INTERNATIONAL

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Many of you may have never heard of Braniff Airways, but long before American Airlines moved to Dallas or Continental dominated Houston, Braniff flew the skies over Texas.

Braniff Airways was the creation of Thomas Elmer Braniff, an Oklahoma City businessman, and four other investors, who bought a five-seat aircraft and began offering regular flights between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The pilot was T.E. Braniff's brother Paul.

Universal Air Lines, a St. Louis based company, bought the fledgling company from its founders in 1930 and renamed it Braniff Air Lines. The new owners kept the Braniff brothers involved, with T.E. as president and Paul Braniff secretary-treasurer.

The company struggled to survive until it won a contract to carry mail between Dallas and Chicago in 1934, which prompted its officers to move flight headquarters to Love Field in Dallas. Soon Braniff won a contract to carry mail to the Panhandle of Texas and to Mexico, which opened passenger routes to those areas as well. Braniff¹s corporate slogan soon became "From The Great Lakes To The Gulf."

During the 1940s Braniff became an international carrier, especially in the Central and South American markets, and by the 1960s had become the world¹s sixth largest airline company¹s new owner after 1964, Greatamerica Corporation, an insurance company.

Greatamerica's chairman, Troy Post, appointed Harding L. Lawrence to run Braniff. Lawrence jolted the company and the industry with his innovations, which including new looks for Braniff's terminals created by fashion designers, brightly and multicolored aircraft, and flashy uniforms for flight attendants designed by Emilio Pucci.

With the rest of the industry Braniff learned the hard way that companies, like individuals, must be careful when making wishes. When the government passed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, Lawrence added over thirty new destinations within two years and he had to buy several new aircraft, on credit, to service the new routes. Then came the reckoning: the new routes did not generate sufficient revenue to service Braniff's indebtedness.

Braniff Company was forced into bankruptcy in 1982. What prompts this remembrance is that my first flight, in 1964, was on a Braniff aircraft from Houston to Omaha, with stops in Dallas and Kansas City. I remember it still, though Braniff no longer flies in the Texas skies.

© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical >

September 5-11, 2004 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Dr. Archie McDonald is the Association¹s executive director and author of more than 30 books on Texas history.
 
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