By Kaleyesus Bekele |

With a view to boosting its long-haul fleet, Ethiopian Airlines is going to place firm orders for 20 wide body aircraft.

Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, told The Reporter that his management is evaluating the Boeing’s new aircraft under development B777X and the Airbus A350-1000. “We are evaluating both so that they have to compete,” Tewolde said. According to him, the evaluation started last month and will be finalized after three months. The number of aircraft could be 15-20, according to Tewolde.

Ethiopian fleet is dominated by Boeing aircraft. Currently, the national flag carrier operates B787, B777, B767, B7575, B737, MD11 and Bombardier Q400 aircraft. For the first time in its long history, Ethiopian had placed orders for Airbus aircraft in 2009. Ethiopian ordered 14 A350-900, Airbus’ new jetliner. Delivery of these aircraft would begin next year.

According to Boeing, the 777X is Boeing’s newest family of twin-aisle aircraft that builds on the passenger-preferred and market-leading 777. Boeing Commercial Airplanes in November 2013 launched the airplane at the Dubai Air Show with 259 commitments from four customers. Production of the 777X is scheduled to begin in 2017 and first delivery is targeted for 2020. The unit cost of B77x is 360 million dollars.

A350-1000 is Airbus’ newest jetliner. Measuring nearly 74 meters from nose to tail, the A350-1000 – scheduled to enter service in 2017 – is the longest-fuselage version of Airbus’ all-new family of wide-body jetliners designed for high efficiency, maximum reliability and optimized performance.

According to Airbus, in a typical two-class configuration, the A350-1000 seats a total of 369 passengers. “Combined with a range of 8,000 nautical miles, this represents a significant revenue-generating advantage for operators,” Airbus says. The aircraft also can be configured for a higher-density layout to accommodate up to 400 passengers.

Last Sunday Ethiopian took delivery of its newest B787-8 Dreamliner aircraft it leased from a US-based leasing company, IFLC. After flying 16 hours direct from Seattle, Everett, the brand new Dreamliner arrived at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport around noon. Two Ethiopian captains and two first officers flew the aircraft direct from Seattle to Addis Ababa. The aircraft transported medicines and medical equipment donated to hospitals in Ethiopia and Somalia free of charge.

Ethiopian is the third airline in the world to own and operate Dreamliner aircraft next to All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines in 2012. The largest African carrier in terms of revenue and profit own ten Dreamliner aircraft, which makes it the largest Dreamliner fleet operator in the continent. The new one has full flat seats in the business class cabin and the latest entertainment technologies.

Government officials, including US Ambassador to Ethiopia, Patricia Haslach, business-class customers, representatives of Boeing and General Electric (GE) and board members and senior management members of Ethiopian attended the arrival of the jetliner.

At the reception held at the VIP saloon, Tewolde said that the Dreamliner was a state-of-the-art aircraft. “It is our core fleet and very popular among our customers. We have more load factor on the routes we operate Dreamliners,” Tewolde told the invited guests.

Though Ethiopian needs to order for more Dreamliners, it was unable to find slot at Boeing as the US aircraft manufacturer is fully booked. Subsequently, the airline leased three B787 from ILFC. The two will arrive in Addis Ababa in March and April this year.

Ambassador Paricia Haslach said that Ethiopia was the second country in the world next to Japan to own and operate the Dreamliner aircraft. The Ambassador said that Ethiopian was African best airline. “I am sure that I will see the B777x in Addis Ababa,” she added.

Currently, Ethiopian operates 80 aircraft. The airline plans to double the number by 2025. The airline is implementing a 15-year strategic plan dubbed Vision 2025 aimed at making Ethiopian a leading aviation group comprising seven profit units. The airline anticipates to own 150 aircraft, serve 92 international destinations and carry 18 million passengers by 2025. “Five years into the implementation of Vision 2025, we have exceeded all the parameters,” Tewolde said. Ethiopian has 43 aircraft, including 14 A350-900 and 20 B737MAX on its order book.

The airline flies to 84 destinations in five continents – 50 of them are in Africa. The national carrier will soon launch new flights to Tokyo, Manila, Dublin and Los Angeles. Last June, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) ranked Ethiopian the largest and most profitable airline in Africa.

Source: The Reporter

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