Braniff Inaugural Flight to Seattle - 1970's


In the early days of Commercial Airline Travel, each airline had to have the approval of the Civil Aeronautics Board to fly between any two cities. Since the Mayor of Austin did not like to fly, and didn't care if Austin had airline service, all applications for airline service were handled by the Austin Chamber of Commerce. The applications were a most complicated process since all interested parties (ie the airline wanting to provide the service, all airlines who opposed it, the airports involved, other cities that were interested, etc) , had to get copies of all correspondence. I recall that when we were applying for service to Atlanta, the stack of paper was four (4) feet tall.

Once the airline was awarded the service, they were permitted to do an "inaugural flight" to which they invited community leaders, travel agents, radio and TV reporters, and anyone they wanted to. The purpose was to get publicity for the new flight. I made several, and they were always fun. Braniff's Vice President for Public Affairs was a good friend, so I was often invited even when the flight didn't directly involve Austin.

The inaugural flight (from Dallas) to Seattle was an interesting one. I was flown to Dallas, and when I arrived there was escorted to the Braniff VIP Lounge where the group was assembling. I didn't know many of them, but they were a gregarious group, and it wasn't hard to get acquainted. I remember one gentleman sitting off by himself, so I went and joined him. When he told me his name was Zale, I asked if he was the jewelry store Zale. He said he was. After a while, I asked him how many stores he had. He said, "Let me check." He pulled some letter sized papers out of his pocket, and after he got to about the fourth page, he said, "256." We had a nice visit.

On the plane we were, encouraged to change seats and visit with as many people as we wanted to. About half way through the trip I was joined by a distinguished man with a well trimmed beard. He introduced himself as Stanley Marcus. I introduced myself, told him why I was on the trip, and asked him if he was the man that had the Neiman Marcus stores. He was. We had a nice visit for the rest of the trip.

While in Seattle, we visited the Boeing Aircraft Plant. While there, we saw a mockup of America's competitor to the Concorde. It never flew. For breakfast the next morning we were taken up in the Space Needle. At some point in time, Braniff's Mr. Burke directed out attention out over Puget Sound. An airplane was flying directly at us. It was dressed in Braniff's new "full color" paint job. This one was burnt orange. It veered right.

About 15 years later I was getting on the elevator to go up to the Headliner's Club-here in Austin. Just before the door closed, a distinguished looking gentleman with a well trimmed beard slipped into the elevator. I recognized him as Mr. Marcus, and introduced myself to him. He immediately said, "I know you. We sat together on a Braniff flight to Seattle several years ago." I was very surprised. I didn't have a trimmed beard that distinguished me, and my hair had gotten a little grayer. We had a nice visit on the elevator, and then went our separate ways.

He was an amazing man, as was Mr. Zale, but he had a better memory than Mr. Zale. I  am fortunate to have had a chance to visit with both of them.

Vic Mathias - October 3, 2009

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