Two brothers, Paul Revere Braniff and Thomas Elmer Braniff, founded Braniff Airways in 1928. The airline’s history began as a small operation flying between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but it grew to become a major international carrier. In 1928, Paul R. Braniff began flying passengers five at a time between their Oklahoma City headquarters to and from Tulsa.
Surviving the Depression
In 1930, successor entity, Braniff Airways, inc., countered the Depression by attracting the newly affluent Oklahoma oil crowd to ride in their Lockheed Vega planes. A 1934 airmail contract also helped keep their heads above water.
By 1940, Braniff had moved its headquarters to Dallas and was flying DC-3 aircraft, capable to carrying in excess of 20 passengers. The Douglas DC-3 also had twin engines, thus offering an image of greater safety.
Dallas Love Field became Braniff’s hub for its middle America routes during World War II. Post war, Braniff grew rapidly to Central and South America. This writer’s parents flew Braniff in the early 1950s to Havana, Cuba for a reward conference. Unfortunately, I also knew a young Rice student who died in May of 1968 when she was on Braniff Flight 362, which crashed in severe weather flying from Houston to Dallas.
The airline was always upgrading its equipment. Braniff was one of the first airlines to embrace jet travel. It also employed innovative marketing campaigns. In the 1960s, Braniff launched the “End of the Plain Plane” campaign, which featured brightly colored aircraft and stylish uniforms. This campaign helped to make Braniff one of the most popular airlines in the world.
Braniff continued to grow and expand throughout the 1970s. Braniff began flying its brightly painted 747s to Hawaii and London. Harding Lawrence transformed Braniff International Airways into a world-class airline with a new color scheme and warm light brown leather interiors.
End of an Era
However, the global economic conditions and rising oil prices caused Braniff to struggle. The company’s sparkling new Boeing 727s and Boeing 747s were not enough to offset the rising costs. Braniff decided to sell unneeded older aircraft and eliminate unprofitable routes.
In early 1980, Lawrence began a program to turn the airline around, but the severe U.S. recession and the air traffic controllers’ strike made it impossible to save Braniff. The company ceased operations in May 1982.
The Braniff brand lives on, however. Today’s company is known for design, art, and fashion. It also has added licensing of its classic memorabilia.
- Year Started: 1928
- Year Ended: 1982
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founders
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Braniff Family
- Owner While In Use: Several
- Owner Successor: Braniff International, Inc.
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Southwest Airlines
- Naics Code: 481111
- Location Headquarters: Dallas, Texas USA