US-based Eastern Airlines is moving into cargo, hoping to take advantage of the opportunities in the growing e-commerce market. The airline announced the launch of a new freight arm Eastern Air Cargo, which will offer cargo charter, wet leasing, and dry leasing services.

Eastern Airlines said it has secured the purchase of 35 Boeing 777 passenger planes, which will be converted to  Class-E cargo jets, equipped with cargo compartments used only for the carriage of freight. 

Eastern Air Cargo will deploy the converted freighter in the e-commerce express freight market, where it sees excess demand., it said in a statement on September 1, 2021. 

"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," Steve Harfst, the CEO of Eastern Airlines said in thes statement.

It will be the first P2F (Passenger to Freighter) conversion of the B777 aircraft into a full Class-E cargo aircraft, Eastern Airlines said. The conversion allows the whole of the main deck cabin to hold low-density express freight cargo.

"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,” Harfst added.

The air carrier outlined that once the Federal Aviation Administration approves the Boeing 777 Express Freighter and issues the necessary supplemental type certificate (STC) for the modifications, its new cargo planes will begin non-stop services connecting Asia and the United States. 

The first Boeing 777 Express Freighter is expected to start operating for Eastern Air Cargo in the first quarter of 2022.

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