Bombardier delivers first ‘improved interior’ Q400NextGen to Ethiopian Airlines


Information received from Canadian based manufacturers Bombardier and a source in Addis Ababa tell a story of change for flying turboprop aircraft and the inflight experience they offer.

Very likely as a result of the negative comments received by passengers, who in increasing numbers found themselves on Q400 services out of Addis to their final African destination instead of the anticipated jet aircraft, Ethiopian seems to have been the driving force behind the innovations now revealed by Bombardier.

Larger overhead bins for carry on luggage, reclining seats and a separate business class section combine with improved galley spaces to make the use of a turboprop aircraft more acceptable to passengers, inspite of the often rude shock they might get when they find themselves not in a more familiar B737 but a propeller aircraft.

Ethiopian has for nearly 3 years now been using the Q400 to fly their off peak frequencies to the wider Eastern African region, where out of necessity to create a functioning hub and spoke operation a second daily frequency was required. The first of the newly configured ‘birds’ was delivered in late September and four more sisterships will join the ET fleet before the end of the year, taking the sting out of passenger complaints over not finding a business class for instance or getting a warm meal or snack. Up to 8 Q400 already flying with Ethiopian will thereafter be progressively retrofitted with the new cabin product.

ET uses these aircrafts to connect long haul traffic into Addis Ababa by Star Alliance partners and their own intercontinental flights to such destinations as Entebbe, Juba, Kigali, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilimanjaro and others, besides serving a large number of domestic airports across Ethiopia. Said a regular aviation source in Nairobi: ‘I think Ethiopian realized that their premium and frequent flyer passengers were simply not accepting being put on what many must have felt an ‘inferior aircraft’ even though the Q400 is a state of the art bird. The lack of recline in seats, lack of overhead locker space, lack of a front cabin, lack of catering sophistication and more I think made ET think hard how to address these issues. The economics of the Q400 are not in dispute, they are better in fact than any jet can offer, but as ET flies in competition with Kenya Airways, and KQ offers an all jet fleet and uses the Embraers to connect out of Nairobi, something had to give. The new cabin is a great improvement, now it is up to their marketing chaps to ‘sell’ the product as something equivalent to a jet. It is a hard choice airlines have to make these days weighing economics versus passenger expectations and demands’.

The ‘new’ Q400NextGen version offers 60 economy class seats in a 2×2 configuration and 7 business class seats in a 2×1 configuration, a reduction in passenger capacity which however also benefited the aircraft’s ability to carry all the baggage on the flight unlike many reported cases where full loads led to some baggage being carried on the next flight by jet aircraft. Competition and the resulting choices do bring benefits for passengers after all it seems. Watch this space for regular and breaking aviation news from East Africa’s aviation industry.