Eastern Airlines is making a big splash in the cargo market today. The newly relaunched passenger carrier has placed an order for 35 converted Boeing 777 freighters to start operations. The first 777P2F will join the fleet in the first quarter of 2022, meaning operations are right around the corner, subject to approvals. Let’s find out more.
Eastern Airlines is entering the busy cargo market as demand for shipping increases drastically every year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
Eastern Air is jumping on the freighter trend today. The newly relaunched airline has placed a whopping order for 35 777P2Fs (passenger-to-freighters) to serve the surging demand during the pandemic. All of these planes will go to a new subsidiary, Eastern Air Cargo.
Unlike other aircraft orders, Eastern is expecting its first 777P2F in the first quarter of 2022, less than half a year away. However, this will only be possible once the aircraft receives supplemental type certification (STC) for the conversion to a full freighter. The converted plane will be a true Class E cargo freighter, capable of carrying a full load of pallets.
Unlike the Boeing 777F, Eastern is opting for a converted passenger 777: Photo: Boeing
In a statement about the new subsidiary, Eastern Airlines President and CEO Steve Harfst said,
“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…Our pioneering conversion method is tailored specifically to meet the needs of express package freight customers. It is more efficient and cost effective allowing us to better serve the exact needs of our customers at a competitive price.”
Cargo has quickly become one of the busiest parts of aviation during the pandemic. The strong demand for e-commerce shopping and supply chain disruptions mean that air freight opportunities have increased dramatically. Moreover, the reduction of international passenger flights, which accounts for 50% of global air cargo, means freighters have been working hard since last March.
This has led to airlines scrambling to covert their passenger jets to temporary freighters, typically by removing seats. However, this comes with a host of restrictions and can still carry far less than a usual freighter aircraft. Eastern is betting that the cargo market will be resilient for years to come, giving it strong demand in the future too.
Airline have been using their passenger planes to cater to the surge of freight traffic. Photo: Hi Fly
Aircraft manufacturers have also struggled to ramp up freighter productions. While Boeing has been delivering several 777Fs since last year, most carriers have opted for converted freighters instead. With hundreds of retired widebodies, there is little shortage of planes that can be rehabilitated.
While Eastern did not say who would be providing the 777P2Fs, there have been several companies working on a solution. The furthest along is GECAS and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which plan to deliver the first 777-300ERSF in 2022. For now, the cargo market remains hot and airlines are not shying away from jumping into the fray.
What do you think about Eastern’s decision to order 35 777Fs? Is there enough demand? Let us know in the comments!