Eastern Airlines is back in scheduled service. Again. Maybe.
The airline operating under that brand name now wants to operate to China from the United States. The company applied to the US Department of Transportation for rights to operate twice weekly flights between New York City’s JFK airport and Jinan, China (TNA). The flight would stop in Anchorage to refuel and also to allow passengers to travel on either of the shorter segments as well as the full journey. It hopes to launch the service in July 2019.
The Eastern brand is now operated by the charter carrier formerly known as Dynamic International Airways. Dynamic changed its name to Eastern as part of its emergence from bankruptcy in 2018, having purchased the name from Swift Air. Swift bought the name from the prior iteration of Eastern that ceased operations at the end of 2017. In its application Eastern brands itself as a Low Cost Carrier, noting it “plans to offer high quality low-fare non-stop service on longer international routes that lack direct non-stop flights at affordable prices.”
The new route would offer the only nonstop service between New York City and Anchorage, cutting travel time by 3-6 hours in each direction. It would also establish the only nonstop service into an airport flagged as “Zone 2” under the US-China bilateral air transport agreement. Under that deal flight frequencies into Zone 1 and Zone 2 airports are limited. Fortunately for Eastern, however, the lack of competition for Zone 2 slots makes approving the service more likely for the airline.
Eastern expects that China-originating tourism destined for Alaska will help boost the route’s financial success. Jinan’s population of more than 7 million people should also help on that front. It also presents a mildly useful option for US-originating travelers headed towards Tianjin or other regions on the south side of Beijing. Driving the route is not ideal but, fortunately, China’s high speed rail network offers a viable alternative. Nearly 100 trains a day connect Jinan and Beijing in as little as 82 minutes; most trains are under two hours. Roughly 50 trains can connect Jinan to Tianjin with travel times as quick as an hour.
The carrier operates a small fleet of 767 aircraft with 209 seats on board, 24 in a premium cabin and 185 in economy class. That is a relatively spacious LCC layout on the 767-300. By comparison, Air Canada‘s Rouge 763 seats 279 passengers. Even the United Airlines Polaris retrofit 763s have 214 seats in the cabin, including 30 flat beds up front.
Eastern still needs the DoT to approve the route and approve the reactivation of its scheduled interstate authority, allowing it to carry passengers on the JFK-Anchorage leg. The carrier also wants to return to the Guyana market where Dynamic previously operated scheduled service. The local government in not keen on such a return given the debt Dynamic left behind when halting operations last time around.
In the interim it is flying a number of charter flights, mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America. Dynamic previously served Nanchang Changbei International Airport (KHN) in China from Ontario, California in 2017, also with a tech stop in Anchorage.
Header image: Dynamic/Eastern 767-300 Via CC-SA Wikimedia
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