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Eastern Airlines to Start Widebody Freighter Operations

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

The third-iteration of Eastern Air Lines — the famous defunct U.S. carrier — filed plans for the operation of freighter services using two leased-Boeing 777-200 freighter aircraft. Eastern Airlines plans to use the aircraft on Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) charters.  

The airline filed plans with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to increase its fleet from 10 to 18 aircraft. Additionally, it plans to increase the number of airliners participating in regularly scheduled service from six aircraft to eight aircraft, with the induction of two Boeing 777-200ERs. The airline is planning for the two 777s to receive proper FAA certification by April 1, entering service in the second quarter of 2021.

The increased capacity would allow Eastern to provide further contracted services to the U.S. Department of Defense, supplying its Civil Reserve Air Fleet division with international charter airlift services. Additionally, the new aircraft added to the fleet would allow for its planned route network expansion in the upcoming months. These flights include several new routes listed below in addition to the airline’s existing service:

New Incremental Schedule Service Subject to Government Approval

  • New York – Quito, Ecuador
  • Miami – Quito
  • Miami – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; 
  • Los Angeles – Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • Boston – Belo Horizonte, Brazil; 
  • Miami – Belo Horizonte
  • New York – Belo Horizonte

Service Operated in Next 12 Months

  • New York – Georgetown, Guyana
  • New York – Anchorage, Alas.
  • Miami – Georgetown
  • Miami – Toronto via Georgetown
  • New York – Guayaquil
  • Miami – Guayaquil
  • Miami – Asuncion, Paraguay

Based on the filing, Eastern Airlines will not proceed with prior plans to operate flights from Port Au Prince, Haiti to Boston and New York in addition to flights from Santo Domingo to Boston, Philadelphia and New York.  Furthermore, flights between Philadelphia and Mexico City were removed from the schedule after being originally scheduled to fly from March 28.  

In an interview with AirlineGeeks last year, Eastern Airlines CEO Steve Harfst said, “We see market opportunities for niche, long-range scheduled and charter operations with our 777 fleet. 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.”

Currently, the carrier’s fleet consists of a mix of 11 Boeing 767-200s and 300s. According to planespotters.net, Eastern Airlines is scheduled to induct three more Boeing 767s, a Boeing 747-400F and three Boeing 777s into its fleet. Two of these Boeing 767s are chartered for the New England Patriots.

Cargo Opportunities

It is unknown from where Eastern Airlines will lease its Boeing 777-200Fs, but it will seek conversion options. One of the airline’s Boeing 767s is a candidate for conversion, along with its Boeing 777s.

In a previous interview with theloadstar, the airline’s head of International Cargo Business Development, Mike Duggan, stated that they were looking into European and Asian routes. He said, “Right now we have modest volumes, but there is not much capacity in the skies at the moment, so cargo in cabins can work if the price is right.  Ours is a small fleet, but that makes us flexible.”

Additionally, the Pennslyvania-based carrier is looking into options to become a supplier.

“We want to do contract flying for companies like DHL and Amazon, like a small Atlas or ATSG,” Duggan said. Similarly, other carriers have begun supplier operations including Sun Country, which has used its converted fleet of Boeing 737-800s to operate for Amazon. Recently, Mesa Airlines started operations of Boeing 737-400 freighters under DHL.

With the success of the aviation cargo sector in the past year, Eastern Airlines is hoping find a profitable foothold in long-haul cargo flying. Additionally, lower prices for widebody aircraft will allow the carrier to look into conversion opportunities, growing its cargo operations when necessary.

Winston Shek


  • Winston Shek

    Ever since Winston was a toddler, he has always had a fascination for airplanes. From watching widebodies land at Washington Dulles to traveling the world, Winston has always had his eyes towards the skies. Winston began aviation photography in 2018 and now posts his photos occasionally on his Instagram account. He previously wrote for a blog. In his free time, Winston loves to play chess, do recreational activities, and watch sports. Looking into the future, Winston plans to service the aviation industry.

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