Texas Air's purchase of Eastern was followed by a period of effective civil war within the company, as Lorenzo attempted to 'do a Continental' to make Eastern more cost competitive. Whilst this was ongoing (and it lasted for over 5 years) Eastern slowly died and Lorenzo undertook a quite shocking period of asset stripping; loading Eastern with debt (it was hardly flush already) and transferring many assets to other companies in the complicated Texas Air structure. Continental benefited from this stripping and received 6 of Eastern's A300s in 1987. Typically it was not a good deal for Eastern. Continental paid $162 million for the A300s but $67 million of this was in a promissory note (so not real money). Continental then went on to sell the A300s for $7 million more than it had paid and leased them back!
Continental itself was a mess in the late 1980s, following the merger of PeoplExpress, Frontier and New York Air into the main airline. The Eastern A300s were not refurbished and, as well as hardly fitting Continental's decor, were tatty. This only got worse over the years. The A300s operated high density trunk routes like IAH-LAX, EWR-IAH, IAH-MIA, IAH-MSY, IAH-SFO, IAH-SAN, IAH-SEA, and IAH-MCO.
As Eastern's problems increased more A300s ended up at Continental and eventually, in total, 17 of Eastern's aircraft ended up at CO - many in 1991 once Eastern was effectively dead. Around the same time all 23 A300s received new CO style registrations. The A300s reliability and comfort did not improve even though they were repainted into the new Globe colours. Continental never really got to grips with the type and had inadequate mechanic training and a shortage of spare parts. It didn't help that Continental did some crazy things like store all A300 spares at Greensboro, North Carolina - an airport that never saw A300 services.
Following Continental's second bankruptcy filing and Gordon Bethune's appointment it was clear that the hotchpotch fleet of orphan old aircraft needed streamlining if Continental was ever to turn itself around. The unrelialble and poorly looked after A300s were an obvious choice for retirement and their departure occurred pretty rapidly around 1995/96.
Some of the aircraft had second careers. N972C for instance, by then N13972, was finally converted to a freighter. She joined EAT in 1999 as EI-EAD (later OO-DLU). By 2010 she was stored in Holland. Some were not so lucky. N13983, which was delivered new to Eastern as N213EA in December 1979, was stored by November 1995 and sold to Carnival for spares in 1996. Despite the A300s poor reputation at Continental the pilots apparently loved the type and you can hardly blame the aircraft itself for the bad rap it got considering the sterling service it provided many other airlines.
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: