ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES CLOSE TO SIGNING NEW DEAL WITH BOEING FOR MORE B787’S?
According to a regular source from Addis Ababa there is growing speculation that Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s leading airline, is pondering additional orders for Boeing’s B787 Dreamliner, inspite of another battery incident reported in the media two days ago when a sensor in the modified battery installation failed midflight on a Japan Airlines B787 aircraft. Ethiopian was the first airline worldwide to resume flights with the B787 after the FAA had lifted the ban on the aircraft, following modifications carried out at the Ethiopian Airlines maintenance facility at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.
AT’s CEO Tewolde Gebremariam reportedly told journalists on the sidelines of the just concluded IATA Summit in Cape Town / South Africa, that his board is considering up to additional 6 orders for the world’s most modern aircraft to date, either through direct purchase or lease arrangements and due for delivery by the 2017/18 financial year at the latest.
Boeing is presently having a significant back log of undelivered, and in fact delayed and overdue orders pending and has been increasing working on increased production to deliver more aircraft to customers.
Nearest rival Kenya Airways will no doubt be equally considering additional orders for the B787, inspite of a challenging financial year 2012/13, as the battle for the African skies continues on all fronts. ‘The key for survival of African airlines is in cooperating, but just as much in phasing out old fuel guzzlers and keeping a firm handle on cost’ said a regular aviation source from Nairobi before adding: ‘Africa has growth potential for the aviation industry. Last year and this year is full of challenges and the leading carriers will surely have sat down in Cape Town. I think they resumed talking about Dr. Naikuni’s proposal at the AFRAA AGM to get closer together. Obstacles are many towards that. One is the two key blocks of airline alliances coming head to head here. Egypt Air, Ethiopian and South Africa are part of Star Alliance and Kenya Airways part of SkyTeam. But I am sure they will look beyond such memberships and recognize that their main threat comes from the Gulf giants and of late even from Turkish and to a lesser extend from African competitors.
You wrote an interesting piece last week about a possible change of trends, pace and direction from the Gulf carriers when you reported Qatar Airways is leaving Seychelles. Emirates for sure will continue on their growth path but QR and maybe even Etihad may seek different strategies for destination growth. The other one, Turkish, continues to talk of a massive rollout into Africa this and next year and those combined factors will eat into the traffic share of African carriers. The main opposition offer more destinations from their respective hubs in Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Istanbul than all the African hubs combined. That is an important factor for passengers to decide which airline they use. They can use the big league carriers and do a one stopper to their final destination or use our own African airlines and perhaps need two or even three stops to get to their final destination. Fleet age and use of state of the art aircraft is become less of a problem with the leading African carriers as they have already or are in the process of phasing out old aircraft and now operate relatively new fleets. I am keen to hear what has happened at the IATA meeting in South Africa especially when it comes to our own airlines coming closer together’.
Fodder for thought no doubt as we wait for formal announcements by Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines that they have put pen to paper for more of the fancied B787 Dreamliner to carry Ethiopian’s colours through the skies of Africa and around the world. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from Eastern Africa’s aviation sector.