Ethiopian Airlines has signed two aircraft deals that together represent the biggest order in its history, and in the process the carrier has become an Airbus customer for the first time.
The airline, one of the largest and fastest-growing carriers in Africa, has signed a firm order for five ultra-long-range Boeing 777-200LRs and has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for 12 Airbus A350-900s. The A350 XWB family, of which the A350-900 is one of three basic passenger versions, is now under development by Airbus as the Europe-based manufacturer’s response to the Boeing 787. Ethiopian is already a customer for the rival Boeing 787, ordering 10 in 2005 to become the first African carrier to order the type.
With its new order for five Boeing 777-200LRs, Ethiopian Airlines also becomes the first African carrier to order and operate the ultra-long-range 777-200LR model. “The 777-200LR is the only airplane in the world that offers the range and efficiency Ethiopian needs to serve long-haul markets and further position Addis Ababa as a strategic hub for East Africa,” says Ihssane Mounir, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ vice president of sales for Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean.
Boeing values Ethiopian’s 777-200LR order at $1.3 billion based on list price. General Electric GE90-115 engines power the 777-200LR. Ethiopian itself says its prospective A350-900 order for 12 aircraft is valued at $2.9 billion at list prices, so together its new Airbus and Boeing deals carry a list-price value of $4.2 billion.
Based in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, the carrier is investing in the additional aircraft to expand its fleet and broaden its network. Ethiopian Airlines will use the 777-200LR to fly to new long-haul nonstop markets such as Washington, D.C. and Beijing, according to Boeing.
When its new Airbus jets are delivered, “The A350-900 will bring increased capacity and range to our rapidly expanding network,” says Girma Wake, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines.
Powered by Rolls-Royce Trent engines XWB engines, the A350 XWB family will offer a range of up to 8,300 nm (15,400 km) and the widest fuselage in its category. Airbus also claims the A350 XWB family will have the lowest operating costs and lowest seat mile cost of any aircraft in the medium-capacity, long-range, widebody jet segment.
Firm orders for the A350 XWB currently stand at 493 from 31 customers worldwide. Should Ethiopian Airlines firm up its memorandum of understanding for A350-900s ― the airline has already said it has ordered the Airbus aircraft ― the orderbook would rise to 505.
Ethiopian Airlines is currently an all-Boeing operator. With the exception of the 747, it has operated every heritage Boeing commercial aircraft since the 707.