Eastern Airlines (2D, Miami Int'l) has applied to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for authorisation to expand its fleet to 18 aircraft, including its first dedicated freighters in the form of two B777-200Fs.

The carrier said it was planning to deploy the two freighters on charter and wet-lease services. It did not reveal any further details concerning the identity of the two aircraft, except for the fact that it would dry-lease them.

Eastern Airlines has been authorised to operate up to 10 aircraft, including six for scheduled services, since 2015. This number currently comprises one B767-200, three B767-200(ER)s, and six B767-300(ER)s. It has applied to increase the total cap to 18 aircraft, of which eight would be used for scheduled services.

The additional eight aircraft will comprise the two B777-200(F)s and two B777-200(ER)s, which the airline expects to certify by April 1, 2021, and induct into commercial service during the second quarter of 2021. The other four aircraft remain unknown.

Eastern Airlines said its proposed fleet expansion would allow it to capitalise on new markets, including charters for the United States Department of Defence and new cargo opportunities, and increase the overall efficiency of its operations.

"Currently, both flight crews and maintenance personnel are underutilized. For example, Eastern can operate all the new scheduled service referenced below without adding any flight crew, maintenance personnel or infrastructure," the airline said.

The carrier plans to expand its scheduled network with new flights from New York JFK to Quito Int'l and Belo Horizonte Tancredo Neves; from Miami Int'l to Quito, Santo Domingo Las Américas, and Belo Horizonte; from Los Angeles Int'l to Guayaquil; and from Boston to Belo Horizonte.