The EastWest Airlines name traces its roots to 1946. The original company operated its first flight between Tamworth and Sydney on 23 June, 1947 and for the next three decades served to connect the regional towns and communities of New South Wales to their capital. In the 1980s EastWest evolved into an industry disrupter, challenging the heavily regulated airline duopoly that saw high airfares and little competition on Australia's major trunk routes.
It did this by innovative thinking and taking a risk. Prohibited by regulation from flying directly between Sydney and Melbourne, East-West touched-down briefly in Albury on the way to circumvent the regulations. The same spirit of innovation saw East-West begin the low-cost airline model in Australia. Sadly not all innovators prosper, and East-West was bought by its major competitor Ansett and eventually closed. Re-established in 2017, we hope to see East-West's spirit of innovation fly again.
During 1946 the earliest predecessor of East-West Airlines, Wollongong & South Coast Aviation Service Pty Ltd, was founded in Wollongong by Walter E. James. Another predecessor, the Anson Holding Company operated its first flight between Tamworth & Sydney on 23 June, 1947. Using Avro Anson VH-ASM this was initially a 3-times-weekly service, but was later daily. These two pioneering aviation companies later merged.
On 11 July, 1947, the Anson Holding Company changed its name to East-West Airlines Ltd. and the new company was registered. On 30 September, East-West Airlines Ltd. was granted a full airline licence, to operate between Tamworth and Sydney. During November, East-West Airlines applied for licences to operate between Sydney and Armidale, Brisbane, Glen Innes & Moree.
East-West Airlines 1950s logo
On 14 May, 1950, Lockheed Hudson VH-EWE operated East-West Airlines' first Sydney-Gunnedah services. During 1950, South Coast Airways began feeder services from Sydney to its south and west.
East-West acquired several Douglas DC-3s starting on 22 July 1953 when VH-EAM, bought from QANTAS Empire Airways Ltd, arrived at Tamworth. These 28-seat aircraft steadily replaced the smaller Avro Ansons in operating scheduled services throughout New South Wales. The last example was disposed in 1973 having latterly been operated on research flights into microwave landing systems for CSIRO.
In the following years East-West grew from an intrastate operator to Australia's third largest domestic carrier which, by 1982, owned ten Fokker F27 aircraft. By that time East-West was also about to acquire its first jet aircraft. East-West, already in 1981 in an era still governed by the Two Airlines Policy, became the first "third" carrier operating between Sydney and Canberra.
Taking on the duopoly.
In 1982 Bryan Grey, a former airline executive with Ansett and Air Niugini, together with former Citicorp Australia merchant banking executive Duke Minks formed East-West Development Pty Ltd with the specific purpose to acquire East-West Airlines.
In the following years East-West competed vigorously with major airlines Ansett and Australian Airlines on inter-capital routes. The Australian aviation industry was highly regulated at the time under the Two Airlines Policy, which prevented East-West from flying directly between major capital cities, so they instead offered services between major cities via regional centres.
Routes included Melbourne to Sydney via Albury or Sydney to Brisbane via Newcastle and Coolangatta. East-West primarily flew Fokker F27 prop-jets and F28 jets but would eventually operate larger BAe 146-300 aircraft for passenger operations and Boeing 727-200s for cargo interests.
East-West sold in June 1983 return tickets between Sydney and Melbourne via Albury, which took about two hours 45 minutes, for AUD 120, which was about half of the standard farefor direct flights by the duopoly carriers, taking one hour 15 minutes.
Because of its operating structure, East-West was able to significantly undercut other airlines. East West Airlines aggressive "Third Airline" campaign forced the Australian Government to eventually scrap the Two Airline Policy.
Managing Director Bryan Grey along with marketing consultant John Williams created a massive nationwide media campaign and thus attracted many first time flyers with what could be described as Australia's first truly discounted fares in a now deregulated arena. East West set the scene for other airlines to enter the Australian domestic market years later.
In 1990 East-West was acquired by T.N.T./News Corp. Ansett sought to promote Eastwest as its discount, no-frills tourist airline.
On 31 October, 1993, the remaining operations of Eastwest Airlines were merged into Ansett Australia's. It was officially wound-up on 31 December. On 1 January, 1994, Eastwest Airlines formally ceased to exist.