More B787 Dreamliners, if only they could get them, a keen interest in Boeing’s latest bird, the B777X and up to 20 single aisle orders within a few months, the message could not have been clearer by Ethiopian Airlines that the carrier is intent to defend their continental top spot and make sure they retain it for years to come.
Tewolde Gebremariam, ET’s Chief Executive, was quoted by a source in Addis Ababa, to have let the cat out of the bag yesterday when he confirmed that the airline was in the final stages to lease at least three more B787 Dreamliners, and would buy more if only Boeing could produce enough of these aircraft, of which now over 150 are already delivered and criss-cross the globe every day.
What took industry observers somewhat by surprise though was the fact that Ethiopian, after an initial lukewarm response to the B777X, has now signaled a much keener interest in this performance enhanced version of the B777-300ER for which Boeing has bagged already significant orders from in particular Gulf airlines.
Ethiopian is reportedly considering an initial order of up to 10 such aircraft while continuing to take delivery of yet more B777-300ER’s.
It is also expected that Ethiopian will within weeks announce their decision on ordering as many as 20 more single aisle aircraft, and while it is understood that both the Airbus A320NEO and the Boeing B737MAX are being evaluated, the odds are stacked against Airbus as Ethiopian already operates 14 B737-800NG’s and B737-700NG’s and has 5 more on firm order. ET also runs one of Africa’s best reputed MRO’s at their Bole International Airport hub, dedicated to servicing Boeing aircraft and the airline, inspite of having 14 Airbus A350XWB-900’s on order, is thought unlikely to opt for a further aircraft type to be added to their overwhelming Boeing fleet. ET does presently operate 13 Bombardier Q400 aircraft used on domestic and near regional services and has another 8 on order.
In a related development it was also confirmed that after launching ASKY in West Africa two years ago and earlier this month commencing flights in a joint venture with the Malawi government under the Malawian Airlines brand, Ethiopian is now looking at Kinshasa to launch a third partner airline in a market which continues to be lacking a quality airline on the domestic, regional and international market which could break the EU Black List ban of which all Congo DR airlines are affected.
It is clear that Ethiopian Airlines is positioning itself to not only fend off competitive challenges from airlines in Africa, most notably closest rivals Kenya Airways which is pursuing a similar expansion strategy, but is also fighting to regain market share vis a vis the major Gulf carriers, which have in recent years, in the words of one regular source ‘ransacked our markets’, by offering nonstop services at allegedly near or below cost fares from across Africa to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha from where passengers can the reach literally every corner of the globe.
Ethiopian, with a fleet of 61 aircraft and a further 42 on firm orders, will be 69 years old in April after commencing flight operations on the 08th of April 1946.
Source: Wolfgang H Thome