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Bubbly for Breakfast: Trump Shuttle Takes Off

From Associated Press

Fog delayed some flights and the painters hadn’t finished refurbishing the former Eastern Airlines planes, but Donald J. Trump was greeted as a conquering hero Thursday as he christened his new air shuttle with champagne, chamber music and merriment.

The Trump Shuttle, acquired from strikebound Eastern for $365 million, carried its billionaire boss from New York to Washington and back, on to Boston and back to New York. At each airport stop he was met by enthusiastic crowds.

In New York’s crowded LaGuardia terminal, festooned with red and white balloons, a string quartet played Mozart near a buffet laden with mimosas (cocktails of champagne and orange juice), muffins and fresh fruit.

“I think this is fabulous!” said one young businessman who was en route to Boston.

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Some Flight Delays

But Trump couldn’t make good on his advertised promise to get the flights off precisely on time. The 8 a.m. flight from LaGuardia to Washington’s National Airport took off at about 8:17, and a flight from Washington to New York was delayed because of poor visibility and heavy traffic.

At La Guardia, Trump personally greeted passengers boarding the plane for Washington, which was packed with both reporters and business travelers. At one point during the flight, he grabbed the public address microphone and announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your flight attendant.”

A crew member announced a slight detour over Atlantic City, N.J., where Trump owns casino hotels.

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Flight attendants, dressed in temporary uniforms of navy blue with burgundy stripes on the sleeves, handed out miniature bottles of champagne.

“The name Trump carries a lot of weight,” flight attendant Denise McCain, 33, an 11-year Eastern veteran, said. “We’re all very excited about it.”

Eastern Flight Veterans

Most of the shuttle employees worked for Eastern before the crippling strike against the Miami-based carrier began three months ago and the airline landed in bankruptcy court.

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For many longtime Eastern employees, Trump’s debut was bittersweet. They were relieved to be working again but sad for their colleagues left behind in the picket lines.

“Our hearts are with them, our thoughts are with them,” flight Captain Ed Comer said. “I wish them the best of luck.”

Comer, who flew for Eastern 25 years, is chief pilot for the Trump Shuttle.

Trump signed the closing papers on the sale Wednesday and his staff worked through the night to clean the planes and put up new signs at the terminals.

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Some planned changes will take more time. Only four of the fleet of 21 Boeing 727s had been repainted by opening day in the Trump colors: white fuselage with red, black and gold stripes, the name “Trump” above the stripes and a red “T” on the tail.

Transition Period

Several aircraft Thursday resembled the hybrids they were: “Trump” had been painted in red above the familiar Eastern silver and blue.

The planes still had the old brown-gold Eastern interiors. Trump plans to refurbish them in burgundy and saddle-brown tones, with accents of chrome and maple veneers.

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Trump and the other passengers arriving at Washington National were welcomed by a string and accordion quintet playing “Casino Royale” and “New York, New York.”

A statuesque blond violinist, Janette Wilkinson, mugged with Trump for photographers. More champagne was passed around by waiters in black tie, who also proffered canapes.

“The enthusiasm of the people working for the airline is unbelievable,” Trump told a news conference at the Washington terminal. He promised that the shuttle fares, $99 each way and $69 on weekends, would not be changed for the near future.

In another development, Pan American Airways launched a fare war with Trump. For the past few weeks, Pan Am has been privately offering large corporations as much as 20% off usual fares in exchange for volume business. Shuttle officials said that Trump will probably match the Pan Am bargain fares.

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