Decision time for Ethiopian Airlines on order for smaller jets


(Posted 21st June 2018)


When the Farnborough Air Show week unfolds between the 16th and 22nd of July will many eyes, not just from Africa, be on Ethiopian Airlines to see, if a two year period of corporate silence and pondering which way to go will finally come to an end.
Sources have suggested that both the precarious financial situation of the country itself and the changes in government over the past two years were factors which impacted on the airline’s ability to make a swift decision about the next generation of smaller regional jets and speculation was only increasing when the airline’s corporate communication department gave feeble responses to start with and then went into silent mode.

Frontrunner for the decision remains Bombardier / Airbus with their CSeries aircraft, presently the plane with the best economic performance in the skies. Ethiopian is already operating a fleet of Bombardier Q400 turboprops, with more such aircraft on order and also flies the Airbus A350 with more orders pending here too.

Adding Embraer aircraft would turn the airline’s fleet from a two manufacturers situation to a three manufacturers situation, assuming that one can now take the Airbus / Bombardier alliance as a close family set up or, at worst, a cousin relationship when it comes to aircraft beyond the CSeries.
Ethiopian broke with tradition of being a sole Boeing operator when they placed orders for the A350 but adding a third manufacturer to the fleet composition is an unlikely scenario given the additional infrastructure investments this would entail.

At stake is an order by Ethiopian of between 10 to 20 smaller jets, for now, with a reach across much of Africa, where the capacity of Boeing B737’s leave alone wide bodied aircraft may be too large for the market at this time.
There is also some continued resistance in the market, especially by premium passengers connecting in Addis, to fly on turboprop aircraft to their final destination in Africa despite the airline having added a business class some years ago. At that time was the decision forced upon ET when premium passengers threatened to fly with competitors rather than finding themselves downgraded to economy class and a turboprop in one fell swoop.

Meanwhile is another strategy of the airline unfolding in several countries across Africa to partner with governments to launch or relaunch national carriers. Later this year is a new airline expected to take to the skies in Zambia, Mozambique has apparently granted rights to Ethiopian to even fly on select domestic routes and, perhaps with a shift of some of the airline’s turboprop fleet to such ventures to serve domestic markets – Malawi Airlines is such an example – could the need to then replace these birds lead to an order for smaller jets to be accelerated.
Farnborough no doubt would be the perfect place to announce an order and for the next couple of weeks it will be wait and see what ET will pull out of their briefcases when they make an appearance at one of the world’s greatest air shows.

In a related development, only weeks after launching flights to Chicago, has Ethiopian Airlines confirmed a new service extension to Barcelona / Spain as of 01st of July, using a Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner. The flights will leave Addis Ababa every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and will route via the Spanish capital of Madrid, before returning to Addis on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, again via Madrid.

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