The parties responsible for Braniff Mk3 and its failure are Jeffrey R. Chodorow, Arthur Cohen and Scot Spencer. All had been involved with Braniff Mk2 when Chodorow’s Core Group BIA-COR Holdings Inc (a Philadelphia based real estate company) bought out the Dalfort Corporation team that had restarted the airline.
This was in June 1988 and by September 1989 Braniff II was in bankruptcy protection. It ended all services in December and was subsequently liquidated (this ran until 1998). Although it is probably unfair to lay the demise of Braniff’s second incarnation totally at their feet Chodorow and others allegedly made off with large amounts of recently borrowed money helping end the second Braniff. They were accused, during the bankruptcy proceedings, of doing this by siphoning off Braniff’s funds by paying fees to leasing and consulting companies that they controlled.
In 1990 Chodorow, Cohen and Spencer formed BNAir as a company to hoover up the assets of the recently deceased Braniff Inc at a fraction of their value during three bankruptcy hearings. Assets purchased included the name and trademark (acquired for only $313,000) allowing them to position themselves for a third run using the Braniff name.
BNAir didn’t get smoothly off the ground as they needed to acquire a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” from the US Department of Transport. The DoT required applicants to pass a fitness test and they were less than impressed by Spencer who had been installed as BNAir president. They cited ‘his lengthy criminal history and poor performance record with Braniff II’.
Even though the new Braniff III had also acquired the bankrupt Austin, Texas based airline Emerald Air, including its 3 DC-9-10s and Air Operating Certificate, they could not get off the ground without Chodorow, Cohen and Spencer all signing sworn affidavits that Spencer would have nothing to do with the new airline. This included holding no position, either directly or indirectly, and not having the power to direct employees or provide advice or consulting services.
With this agreed Emerald Air and BNAir were merged to form Braniff International Airlines, Inc. Braniff III leased a hangar at Dallas Fort Worth just across from the old “Braniff Place” World headquarters. Most of the employees hired were long suffering former Braniff Mk1 and Mk2 staff and they would once again be let down.
Charter services were operated from December 1990 but scheduled operations didn’t begin until July 1, 1991. Its introductory fares included a $69 one-way coach fare from Islip Mac Arthur Airport on Long Island to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a $79 fare between Dallas and Newark and Dallas and Los Angeles.
The startup fleet consisted of 4 727s and the 3 ex-Emerald DC-9s. Apparently Chodorow ran the airline from his two New York restaurants! That hardly sounds like a recipe for success and you have to wonder what he was doing except attempting to steal more money. Only one of the DC-9s was painted into Braniff colours and this was used for flights to Nassau. The two leased 727-100s were returned to Express One after 5 months and the new additions were mainly ex-Eastern aircraft.
The new Braniff attempted to return to old glories painting its aircraft in copy-cat Ultra schemes using new and often gaudy colour combinations. In this it was copying the 2nd Braniff which had returned to a variant of the Ultra scheme right at the end of its days after trialing two other scheme variants for short periods. The main difference with the scheme was that it combined the old Jellybean era titles with the Ultra look. Some of the combinations tried with Braniff III included:
There is a decent gallery of Braniff III photos below from the collection of EX/ZX at FlickR:
Even had Braniff III been properly run the period from 1990-1995 was not an opportune time to start up a new airline. The Gulf War caused fuel prices to rocket and the global economy to nosedive. It doesn’t seem like Braniff III ever operated in good faith and exactly one year and one day after services began Chodorow took Braniff into bankruptcy and ceased all operations. This was of course two days before the busy July 4 holiday weekend. It was the fourth airline in 18 months to go out of business but did so with no warning and left over 4,000 passengers stranded.
Just prior to the bankruptcy Braniff III had been serving the following destinations woth a fleet of 10 727s and 1 DC-9-14:
Several airlines assisted stranded passengers but there was limited protection since to buy Braniff tickets required calling the airline directly or visiting a ticket counter. It was not part of an airline reservations system and so tickets could not be purchased through travel agencies. Braniff encouraged passengers to look for a refund through their credit card companies.
It seems that Chodorow had been up to his old tricks as on July 19, 1994 he and Scot Spencer were indicted for bankruptcy fraud including the theft of $14 million of Braniff III’s assets and interfering with the DoT airline certification process. It appears they had been less than truthful about what Spencer’s involvement would be in addition to plain old stealing.
In 1996 Chodorow was convicted of defrauding the DoT and obstructing its proceedings. He got off lightly after the charges of bankruptcy fraud and fraudulently concealing assets from creditors were dropped in return for him pleading guilty to the other offences. He only served four months in jail and four years of supervision. He was ordered to pay $1.25 million in restitution and a $40,000 fine. Spencer got a 51-month prison term followed by three years of supervision.
The setup and operation of Braniff III was a disgrace in pretty much every way. The only positive to come out of the mess was that the Braniff name, logos, servicemarks, paint schemes and trademarks were all acquired by a trust in New York and to this day have been kept out of the hands of anyone else who has ideas about starting Braniff IV.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: