You’ll Never Believe the Inside Secrets of the Airline That Donald Trump Once Owned

With Donald Trump as president, we keep learning about more and more of his (rarely successful) business ventures from years past. Adding to the list of those ventures is Trump Shuttle, a luxury airline that never really took off. You could even say it crashed and burned.

1. Trump wanted to create a luxurious flying experience for the elite

Trump Shuttle plane on runway

He aimed to make air travel luxurious. | JetPix/Wikimedia Commons

Trump’s whole plan was to create an in-flight experience that mirrored his hotels and casinos. He wanted to include such design elements as his signature gold, marble, and plush. Not everyone he was working with at the time was on board with the idea, but Trump proceeded with his vision.

“My argument at the time, which fell on deaf ears, was no one was going to fly on our planes because they looked better. He disagreed because his modus operandi was to make things look flashier than anyone else,” said the shuttle’s former president, Bruce R. Nobles. 

Next: There’s a reason most planes don’t have marble sinks. 

2. Problems with the interior

marble sink

They ended up using faux marble. | terex/iStock/Getty Images

The marble sinks Trump wanted were too heavy for the aircraft, so they ended up installing faux marble. The thick burgundy carpets Trump selected made it difficult for the flight attendants to maneuver the food and beverage carts. Trump’s solution? He told them to push harder.

Next: Trump should have listened to Nobles.  

3. Unnecessary luxury

Donald Trump

He insisted on the luxury features. | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Nobles was onto something when he tried to tell Trump that people wouldn’t fly with an airline just because it looked better. Despite surveys that said flight passengers primarily cared about on-time flights and consistent scheduling when it came to flying, Trump still pushed for the luxury experience above all else. He insisted on leather seats, gold-plated fixtures, and chrome buckles for flights that took less than an hour, according to The Washington Post.

Next: Trump tried to cut costs in other areas 

4. He tried to make cuts in other places

Jet cockpit

He suggested reducing cockpit crew. | XavierMarchant/iStock/Getty Images

As it turns out, decking your aircrafts out in gold and leather can add up pretty quickly. So Trump tried to cut costs in other areas. According to The Washington Post, he even suggested reducing the cockpit crew. He was of course reminded that the Federal Aviation Administration states that each flight is required to have a pilot, co-pilot, and an engineer.

Next: Trump tried to attack another airline to remain competitive.  

5. He tried to go after Pan Am

Donald Trump speaks into a microphone.

He wanted to win some of Pan Am’s market share. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

When Trump Shuttle realized they’d overpaid $65 million for operational costs, they thought they could get some of that money back if they could win 60% of Pan Am’s market share. So Trump announced that Pan Am was losing money and couldn’t afford to safely maintain its fleet.

“We said, ‘Donald, don’t ever do that again,’” said Henry Harteveldt, the company’s marketing director, according to the Globe. “It was wrong. We had no proof to back that up. And there’s an unwritten rule in the airline business that you don’t attack someone else’s safety record.”

Next: The infamous plane crash 

6. The crash

airplane on runway

Karma caught up with Donald Trump. | Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Not soon after Trump went for Pan Am, karma caught up with him. In August 1989, a Trump Shuttle Boeing 727 performed a crash landing thanks to malfunctioning nose gear. The plane needed to dump some of its fuel to avoid and even bigger disaster. The underbelly of the jet was completely destroyed thanks to a jolting asphalt landing.

“It was the most beautiful landing you’ve ever seen,” Trump said about the incident, according to the Post. 

Shortly after, Pan Am launched an ad campaign spoofing the luxury airline. The ad featured Monopoly’s Milburn Pennybags asking the question, “On which shuttle will you find the world’s most famous investor in real estate, hotels, and transportation?”

Next: Trump thinks he was a smart businessman throughout this whole venture.  

7. Trump thinks he played his cards right

Donald Trump speaking

He blames a market downturn and rising jet fuel prices for his failure. | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Despite overspending on his fleet’s interiors, the crash, and the bad blood he created with Pan Am and their customers, Trump blames a market downturn and rising jet fuel prices for his failed venture.

USAir took over the operation, and Trump was no longer responsible for some of the $245 million in loans left, and $100 million of the $135 million Trump personally guaranteed was forgiven,” reports the Post. 

“I got out at a good time. I walked away saying, ‘I’m smart.’ The market had crashed. I didn’t lose anything. It was a good thing,” said Trump in a Globe interview. 

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