By Chase Hagl
Eastern Airlines Expands Operations Into Cargo Market with 777F Purchase
On Wednesday, Eastern Airlines announced that it will be expanding its operations into the cargo market following the acquisition of 35 Boeing 777F aircraft. Set to enter service in the first quarter of 2022, the aircraft acquired by the company will be the first 777s to ever undergo a passenger-to-freighter (P2F) transformation, allowing the carrier to begin serving the e-commerce express freight market.
The conversion of the 777 will transition the aircraft into a fully certified cargo aircraft, allowing the company to carry solely freight, categorizing itself as a Class E cargo aircraft.
The expansion comes at a time when air cargo operations are continuing their stark upward trend. Although operations in several other transportation sub-sectors came to a quick halt when the pandemic hit, air cargo was one that did not. The cargo sector accomplished its third consecutive month of relative growth stability, according to the IATA’s most recent analysis in July.
“Industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs) rose by 8.6% in July compared to the pre-crisis month of July 2019, a minor deterioration from the 9.2% increase in June. Growth remains dynamic compared to the long-term average (circa 4.7% at the monthly level),” IATA’s report stated. One tonne-kilometer is equivalent to approximately 0.68 ton-miles.
The transition by the carrier will help the cargo sector keep up with the demand spike.
“This move is not just a game-changer for Eastern, it will also transform the industry,” said Eastern President and CEO Steve Harfst in a prepared statement. “We are thrilled to offer this service to customers who have struggled to find capacity in the cargo market and to offer a nimble aircraft solution to serve customer needs.”
An advantage of the P2F 777 aircraft is that it will allow the airline to carry loads non-stop between the U.S. and Asia and is not conditional upon restrictions on cargo commodities that are often placed on passenger aircraft being used as freighters.
The conversion of the Boeing 777 -200, -200ER and -300 series will allow for complete utilization of the main deck cabin.
“Our pioneering conversion method is tailored specifically to meet the needs of express package freight customers,” Harfst said in the statement. “It is more efficient and cost-effective allowing us to better serve the exact needs of our customers at a competitive price. Future derivative plans for the design include a palletized loading system and an Express Main Deck cargo door.”
The transition by the carrier most certainly makes the airline a more competitive force within the industry. By operating in both domestic and international passenger-carrying markets, the carrier is looking to gain a foothold to propel itself to better brand recognition worldwide.