Braniff International Airways

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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.


The Beginnings

Braniff International’s 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. Braniff’s 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, in the wake of the 1934 Air Mail Scandal, 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.

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In the next few years the airline acquired a number of 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. The aquistion of Mid-Continent Airlines in 1952 allowed Braniff to add several more domestic cities to its already established North-South route system. In 1954, Thomas E. Braniff died in a private plane crash near Shreveport, Louisiana, and Paul R. Braniff died later that year of cancer. Charles "Chuck" Beard became the first non-Braniff President of the colorful carrier after Tom's death. He would lead Braniff into the jet-age, and would be instrumental in turning Braniff into a 95% jet carrier by 1964.

In 1959, Braniff entered the jet age with the introduction of the Boeing 707-227, although it was the only airline to use this variation.

The Harding Lawrence Administration, a.k.a. "The End of the Plain Plane"

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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 perceived "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, medium 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. (Chuck Beard had ordered the BAC-111 in 1961, and Braniff became one of the launch customers for the British twin-jet.) Lawrence would end up cancelling the remaining orders in favor of the Boeing 727. (This did not sit well with some of Braniff's long serving directors)

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?

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A BRANwich
In 1971, Braniff chefs revamped the traditional sandwich into a "BRANwich", which was an instant hit with passengers. These were made by wrapping puff pastry around various fillings, rather like beef Wellington. So popular did the BRANwich become that recipes were published in major US magazines.

Flying Colors with Alexander Calder

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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 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

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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

A Concorde, which is not in Braniff livery
A Concorde, which is not in Braniff livery
The Concorde, the world's second supersonic airliner (the first being the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144) was the culmination of a Anglo-French investment between Britain's BAe and France's Aerospatiale. As part of Braniff's supersonic dreams, the airline started service in 1979 between Dallas, Texas and Washington D.C. to Paris and London on interchange flights with British Airways and Air France. Flights between Dallas and Washington Dulles airport were commanded by Braniff cockpit and cabin crews (including Braniff captains Glenn Shoop, Ken Larson and Dean Smith) while British or French crews would take over for the remaining segment to Europe. Over US soil, the Concorde was limited to Mach 0.95, though crews often flew just above Mach 1; the planes flew at Mach 2 over open water.

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.

Last Hours

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 subsidiary of "Dalfort."

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The 'New' Braniff

Falling Star

In 1988, the debts were starting to collect. It ordered Fokker F100 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.

Other facts of interest

  • In 1981, Braniff dedicated a Boeing 727-227 with the colors of the Dallas Cowboys, an American football team that chartered the airplane for road games. The airplane featured a Cowboys helmet on it's tail section.
The Cowboys had been a loyal customer of Braniff throughout the 1970s.
  • Many Braniff groups are still active today.
-The Retired Pilots, "The Braniff International Silver Eagles"
-The Retired Hostess Organization, "The Clipped-B's"
-The Braniff Retirement Club (Based in Dallas)
-The Braniff Family Annual North Texas Reunion Organization
-Braniff/Mid-Continent Reunion Club (who have met every year in Minnesota since 1978)
  • Minnesota-based "Sun Country Airlines" was founded in 1982 by former Braniff employees. It flew a fleet of Boeing 727-200s and DC-10s until 2001. It reorganized in 2003, and currently flies a modern fleet of Boeing 737-800 series aircraft.
  • A portion of an old Braniff ad and the theme music were included at the tail end of early South Park episodes. However, in 2001, the New York "Trust" that still owns the Braniff Trademarks informed Southpark Studios to not use "Braniff" in any other formats. (This is why you do not see it in the Southpark movie.)

External links

  • ( - a website about the entire history of Braniff by Brooke Watts
  • ( - The airline's culture by Carlos Yudica
  • ( - Braniff employee organization run by Carl and Carrie Shea
  • ( - "Braniff International Silver Eagles" Retired Pilots Official Site
  • ( - The airline's history (emphasis on 1965-1982)
  • Braniff Expo ( - Japanese Braniff Exhibition site

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