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

Eastern Airlines Launching Flights From Three U.S. Cities to Belo Horizonte, Brazil

The third incarnation of Eastern Airlines — what was recently known as Dynamic Airways — is continuing to grow its presence in the U.S.-Latin America market. This week, the airline added to its reservation system regular flights connecting Boston, Miami and New York to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the center of the country’s third-largest metropolitan region after São Paulo’s and Rio de Janeiro.

Although there is no reservation of slots in Belo Horizonte’s Confins Airport database, such news was confirmed by Minas Gerais Governor Romeu Zema on his Twitter page. Tickets to Miami and New York are for sale on Eastern’s website.

According to Eastern’s website, the flights from Miami to Belo Horizonte will be operated on Mondays and Fridays, with the aircraft rotating to New York on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The aircraft returns to Belo Horizonte on the same day and returns to Miami on the days following. There is still no information on the Boston operation.

The operations from Miami and New York, according to Eastern’s website, are expected to start, on March 29 and 30, 2021, respectively. There is still no information on the aircraft that will operate these rotations, although Eastern Airlines’ fleet is composed of five Boeing 767-200s, four 767-300s and three 777-200s, according to Airfleets.

These new flights are in line with Eastern’s previously outlined expansion plans. In November, it came to the news that the airline planned to start flights from Miami to Asunción, Paraguay; Montevideo, Uruguay and Santa Cruz de La Sierra, Bolivia. At the moment, only the flight to Asunción is for sale, and it is expected to start from January 2021. Other destinations are also on the radar.

In an interview with AirlineGeeks in October, Eastern Airlines’ CEO Steve Harfst claimed that the company is “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.”

The case of Belo Horizonte echoes that. Before the COVID-19 crisis kicked off, the city was only connected to the U.S. by Azul Brazilian Airlines, which has a hub in the airport, through Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Orlando. Just recently, flights to Miami’s main airport were dropped by TAM — currently LATAM Brasil — in March 2016 and then by American Airlines in August 2018.

Why Eastern Believes These Flights Can Work

Flights to New York were operated by Continental, albeit via the more distant Newark Airport, in the early 2000s, and Boston was never connected to the city. Indeed, Boston only started to have a direct connection to Brazil in July 2018 with a flight from LATAM Brasil’s hub in São Paulo. Even so, the route allegedly did not perform as well as the airline’s other U.S. connections, despite Boston having a huge Brazilian community.

Eastern, instead of the legacy carriers that serve these markets, will aim to capture travelers on a budget. Its aircraft, for instance, have no business class, featuring only “Premium” seats, equivalent to premium economy. Its new 777s, for instance, have a dense configuration with 380 seats.

As Harfst told AirlineGeeks in June, “There are a lot of small, secondary, or niche types of markets that aren’t big enough for big legacy airlines to commit capacity to, but still have viable demand. And with our cost structure and the way that we’ve built our company, we think we can operate limited frequency in these smaller markets and do well and provide a service that doesn’t exist today. Namely giving people a chance to fly nonstop in markets that require one or two stops.”

Additionally, the aircraft it has brought this year were purchased out of opportunity, benefitting from lower market prices. This strategy provides the airline a lower cost structure, it affirms.

It remains to be seen whether this strategy will make Eastern take off from its Dynamic Airways’ origins of charter airlifting. But with older aircraft in the market for prices lower than before, the airline believes it has found, amidst the crisis, an opportunity to invest in for the years to come.

João Machado
João Machado
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