Following a lengthy certification process, Eastern Airlines (2D, Miami International) has now completed the induction of its first passenger-configured B777-200ER.

N771KW (msn 28530) was acquired by the airline during the peak of COVID-related aircraft groundings in May 2020. However, the 20.9-year-old jet subsequently remained in storage at Victorville and Kansas City International through November 2022, when it began proving flights.

The airline currently operates an all-B767 fleet comprising one B767-200, three B767-200(ER)s, and seven B767-300ERs which are deployed mainly on charter services after Eastern Airlines curtailed its once more extensive point-to-point Latin American network to a single return route - Miami International to Santo Domingo Las Américas. The airline is also trying to secure rights to fly to China.

Chief Executive Steve Harfst told ch-aviation that the aircraft would be used on a mix of charter, ACMI, and scheduled operations on the existing route.

Eastern plans to pivot to a B777-dominated fleet. In 2021, it announced plans to acquire a total of thirty-five B777s, spread across four variants (B777-200, B777-200(ER), B777-300, and B777-300(ER)) amid plans to eventually convert these aircraft into freighters under its proprietary Class E Supplemental Type Certificate. The first freighters were due to go into service in the first quarter of 2022. The airline later deferred this to the second half of last year. Harfst said that the current expectation is to obtain the STC in the first quarter of 2023.

Harfst told ch-aviation last year that as Eastern proceeds with its freighter certification, some B777s will operate as passenger aircraft. The current plan is to operate at least two as passenger aircraft, with more contingent on demand.