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An Eastern Airlines 767 in the new livery. (Photo: Eastern Airlines)

Eastern CEO Details Strategy After Purchasing Additional 777s

Eastern Airlines made headlines in June when it became the only U.S. non-legacy commercial airline to add a passenger Boeing 777 to its fleet. As N771KW, the airline’s first 777, completes its final conformity checks this week, Eastern is already committed to expanding the fleet type with the recent acquisition of two additional 777-200 jets.

The Wayne, Pennsylvania-based airline completed the purchase of two additional 777s on Oct. 15. The aircraft, N783KW and N821JT, are expected to begin flying alongside the first 777 over the next three to six months.

Steve Harfst, CEO of Eastern Airlines, told AirlineGeeks: “We see market opportunities for niche, long-range scheduled and charter operations with our 777 fleet.”

The airline recently filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to fly twice weekly to Buenos Aires and Viru Viru, Bolivia from its developing Miami hub.

“We’re looking worldwide. The 777 expands our range circle significantly” said Harfst.

While no announcements have been made, the airline is actively looking to expand with new routes from the U.S. to complement its current offerings.

The Wide-body Strategy

“We’re not in the business of competing with big airlines. We want to fly niche routes that aren’t big enough for them and focus on markets that we can serve with limited to no competition,” said Harfst.

It’s unlikely that Eastern would serve a route such as New York to London, but connectivity to smaller European markets could be on the horizon when travel levels between the two continents normalize.

Harfst continued to state: “Once countries start to open up and remove travel restrictions, there will be opportunities for us to continue expanding our strategy to additional markets.”

The strategy Harfst discusses is the traditional low-cost structure. Harfst has had an extensive history in the low-cost aspect of the aviation industry on a global scale. He believes there is room for Eastern to establish itself as a wide-body player in an already competitive sphere.

“We like the 767 and 777 fleet because they cycle through the market and their value comes down to a point where our low cost of ownership allows us to put those aircraft into markets where they otherwise would not be profitable,” Harfst said.

One big problem with the long-haul low-cost structure is that many airlines try to operate brand new and expensive equipment, making the business model unsustainable. By operating older and less expensive jets, Eastern believes it can offer affordable tickets that benefit the passenger but also ensure the airline can sustainably operate and grow over the years.

Bringing Jets Out of the Desert

The three 777s purchased were brought back to life by Eastern after being stored by their previous operators in the U.S. N783KW and N821JT, the latest additions to the fleet, operated for Kenya Airways and VIM Airlines prior to joining the Eastern fleet. The first 777 purchased by the airline earlier this year, N771KW, previously flew with Flynas.

All three aircraft will sport Eastern’s new topography-inspired livery on the exterior and refreshed cabins onboard. The jets will be configured with 380 seats in an economy and premium economy configuration, with no lie-flat seats onboard.

The current bring-your-own-device inflight entertainment product that is rolling out on the 767 fleet will soon make its way onboard the new 777s as well. The airline is adding AirFi’s FASE system to its aircraft which allows passengers to stream music and movies on their own devices. This system can also be used for in-flight purchases.

Additional 767s Join Fleet Aswell

Beyond the new 777 fleet which will soon debut in the skies, Eastern recently became the official airline of the New England Patriots. As part of the sponsorship, Eastern Airlines will be adding the two Patriots 767-300s to its fleet over the coming months. This will increase the airline’s 767 fleet to include six 767-300s and four 767-200s.

While the Covid-19 crisis has had a major impact on the industry, Eastern has remained satisfied with its route performance on flights from Miami and New York to Guayaquil and Georgetown, Ecuador.

In November, Eastern will fly 128 commercial flights and offer over 87,000 seats according to Cirium. New flights to Asunción, Paraguay from Miami will begin on Nov. 8.

Mateen Kontoravdis
Mateen Kontoravdis
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