It has been quite some time since I’ve written about Eastern Airlines, which I consider to be the most unusual “real” airline in the world. The airline is based in the United States and has over a dozen wide body jets, yet does very little with them. Somehow the airline is still around, though…
What is Eastern Airlines?
Perhaps a bit of background would be useful. First of all, it’s worth acknowledging the history associated with the name. Eastern was a major airline back in the day (one of the “big four” airlines at the time), and ceased operations in 1991.
In 2015 rights to the Eastern name were purchased, though that airline went out of business within a couple of years. Finally in 2018 Dynamic International Airways (primarily a charter operator) purchased rights to the Eastern name, and that’s what modern day Eastern is.
For those of you not familiar with the current iteration of Eastern, the airline has a fleet of over a dozen Boeing 767s and 777s, all of which were acquired secondhand. Here’s what the airline claims its mission is:
“Our mission is to bring back the sense of awe and wonder to air travel by providing underserved markets across the globe with direct, nonstop flights with the best value.”
In theory the airline primarily operates routes between the United States and Latin America, and below is the routemap from Eastern’s website.
While I can in theory appreciate the concept of operating routes in underserved markets, the airline hasn’t actually done a whole lot of that. Over the past few years we’ve seen Eastern repeatedly announce routes, only to cancel them before launch:
- The airline was supposed to launch once weekly Chicago to Sarajevo flights, but that never happened
- The airline was supposed to launch 3x weekly New York to San Diego flights, but that never happened
- The airline was supposed to launch 2x weekly New York to Jinan via Anchorage flights, but that never happened
- The airline was supposed to launch 2x weekly New York to Los Cabos flights, but that never happened
That’s only a small sampling of the flights that Eastern was going to operate, but didn’t end up following through on.
Am I the only one confused by Eastern?
The above is some history on Eastern Airlines, so what’s the current state of the airline? For some reason I thought of the airline this morning, and pulled up the website.
At the moment, Eastern’s only route for sale is a once monthly New York (JFK) to Guayaquil (GYE) route. Yes, once monthly. That’s it. No other routes. The airline has 15 wide body jets, and one, once monthly route. Hmmm…
Speaking of Eastern’s fleet of 15 jets, how much flying have those planes been doing? In the past several months, only three of those planes have even operated any flights:
- Eastern acquired five Boeing 777s in late 2020, but hasn’t operated a single flight with a single one of those jets
- Only three Boeing 767s have operated flights in recent months, with the registration codes N700KW, N703KW, and N705KW
- It seems to me like almost all of these flights have been military charters, as routes have included Guam to Anchorage, El Paso to Camp Springs, Kuwait City to Portsmouth (via Shannon), etc.
Does anyone want to take a crack at what’s going on here? I mean, this is a real airline, with real airplanes. This isn’t Global Ghana Airlines. The airline has now for several years had a significant fleet, yet hasn’t been able to consistently and regularly operate scheduled flights.
Rather the airline seems to have some random charters, while maintaining a highly underutilized fleet. Personally I don’t really see merit to Eastern’s point-to-point business model, without more connectivity.
There’s also a huge market for charter operators and wet lease agreements, and it seems like the airline would be much better off pursuing that. However, even there the airline seems to have very limited business.
While I know these planes were purchased for a fraction of what you’d pay for a new plane, this is still real money being spent. Who is funding this, and how is the airline still in business?
I can’t think of a stranger “real” airline than Eastern. The US airline has a fleet of over a dozen wide body jets, yet only three of those planes have flown at all in recent months, primarily for (presumably) military charters. In terms of scheduled flights, the airline is currently selling tickets for a once monthly flight between New York and Guayaquil.
Can anyone make sense of this, and when the other shoe will drop here?