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  • Chidozie Uzoezie

Ethiopian Airlines to Double Fleet, Eyes Airbus A350F

Africa's largest and most profitable airline, Ethiopian Airlines, is set to become even larger and more profitable. The airline plans to aggressively pursue its growth ambition by almost doubling its operating fleet by the year 2035.

To drive this aggressive growth plan, Ethiopian Airlines newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Mesfin Tasew, has embraced the ‘Vision 2035’ roadmap which was introduced in 2019 by his predecessor, Tewolde GebreMariam.

Speaking to the media at the Farnborough Air Show in July, Tasew said that Ethiopian Airlines roadmap is “tailored around fast, profitable, sustainable growth” and will involve almost doubling of its current fleet, including passenger and cargo aircraft.

“Today, Ethiopian Airlines operates around 135 aircraft and by 2035 we would like to expand this fleet to more than 250 aircraft,” he said.

Currently, Ethiopian Airlines has only 35 aircraft on order. To double its fleet, the airline will need to place significant orders for “more latest-technology, highly efficient aircraft” in the coming years, Tasew said.

Ethiopian Airlines current order book also includes 22 Boeing 737 MAX jets of which Tasew said has been very reliable after the airline reintegrated four Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into its active fleet. The entire MAX fleet had been grounded for almost 3 years following a crash.

“When we reintroduced them, customers did not notice that they were flying on the 737 Max,” Tasew said of the passenger response to the type returning following the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX in March 2019. “The reliability of the aircraft has been very good.” he added.

By early August, 2022, Ethiopian Airlines had taken delivery of three more Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, bringing its fleet of the fuel-efficient jet to seven. According to Tasew, the airline expects to take delivery of the remaining 22 over the next four years.

In addition to the outstanding orders for Boeing 737 MAX jets, Ethiopian Airlines aircraft on order also include six Airbus A350s, four of which were recently upgraded from the -900 to -1000 variant. It also has two Boeing 787-9s, and five 777 freighters.

Perhaps, the most interesting development is that, despite signing an MoU with Boeing in March for the purchase of 5  B777-8Fs, Tasew said the airline is still “evaluating new-generation cargo aircraft, particularly the 777X freighter in comparison with the A350 freighter”. Irrespective of what they decide to order, freighters are a big part of the airline's vision 2035 roadmap.

It'll be recalled that in May, Ethiopian Airlines placed a new order for 5 current generation Boeing 777 Freighters. At Farnborough, Ethiopian Airlines signed an agreement to purchase two Dash 8-400 freighter conversion kits from De Havilland Canada, while Tasew says Ethiopian “plans to acquire more 737 freighter aircraft”.

At the air show, the airline also signed Boeing 787 gear exchange agreement with Boeing. Beyond investing in fleet renewal and route expansion, Ethiopian Airlines Vision 2035 strategy also involves “investments in infrastructure in the areas of MRO and airport facilities”, Tasew said.

Founded in December 1945 as Ethiopian Air Lines (EAL), Ethiopian Airlines is the fastest growing Airline in Africa. In its almost 76 years of operation, Ethiopian has become the continent’s leading carrier, unrivalled in efficiency and operational success.

Ethiopian commands the lion’s share of the Pan African passenger and cargo network operating the youngest and most modern fleet to more than 130 passenger and cargo domestic, regional, and international destinations across 5 continents.

Ethiopian Airlines' current fleet includes ultra-modern and environmentally friendly aircraft such as Airbus A350, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 777-200LR, Boeing 737, and Bombardier Dash 8-400 double cabin with an average fleet age of 7 years.

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