12/13/1977: Eastern Airlines Introduces the A300 in the US

Airbus offered four jets to Eastern as part of a trial that led to a 23-airframe order and proved Airbus' credentials in the United States.



December 13, 2023

DALLAS - Today in Aviation, Miami-based Eastern Airlines (EA) became the first US carrier to introduce the Airbus A300 into service in 1977.

Eastern Airlines leased four 229-seat A300B4s from the European manufacturer. This was part of an in-service trial to promote the A300 in the US. EA put the aircraft into service on its trunk routes along the Eastern Seaboard.

The type exceeded expectations during the trial. No EA aircraft ever placed into service had functioned so well from the outset, with minimal technical issues or delays. Passengers loved the airplanes, and the airline soon discovered that the A300 used 30% less fuel than its Lockheed L-1011 Tristar aircraft.

Eastern would go on to operate 34 A300s. Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ordering Its Own Metal

So impressed was the airline's CEO that he placed a US$778 million order for 23 of the type on April 6, 1978. The four already in service would be retained, and EA would purchase 19 more outright with deliveries from 1978.

The order was significant for Airbus. Many saw it as the point where the European plane maker was finally recognized as a major competitor to the American behemoths Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.

Pan Am (PA) followed the EA order shortly afterward with a deal for 13. American Airlines (AA) ordered 25 A300s, with options on a further ten. Deliveries began in 1988, and the type remained in service with AA until 2009, after 21 years of service.

American Airlines A300 'Luxury Liner.' Photo: Simon Butler, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Featured Image: N202EA was one of the early A300s delivered to EA. Photo: Clipperarctic, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons