Ethiopian Airlines likes to point out that it is Africa’s fastest growing airline. The company was an early adopter of the 787, and by all appearances is pleased with the aircraft. The fire at Heathrow was an odd event and the aircraft is repaired and back in service. In 2009 the airline also ordered A350-900s. Currently the airline has 61 aircraft in service; including seven 777s and five 787s. Besides an order for 14 A350-900s, it also has eight 787s plus seven 777 on order.

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With these aircraft ordered and in operation, Ethiopian certainly joins a special club.  In Africa, it is unique with these aircraft orders.

However, an item that caught our eye is the latest news reported from the Dublin finance conference.  The airline’s long haul needs for serving the US west coast demand the longest of legs – over 9,100 miles.  This means either the airline looks at an intermediate stop (and finds many more options to select from) or its only choice will be the 777-8.  Even that aircraft may have to take a payload penalty from Addis Ababa, which is at 7,600 feet elevation.  No doubt Boeing would be pleased to work with Ethiopian, which is an established customer to get what they need.  Airbus, on the other hand, might need to see what can be done to ensure the airline gets fifth freedom access in the EU.

Then there is another item from Dublin – interest in 10-20 single aisle aircraft.  Airbus’ neo and Boeing’s MAX are in the running.  We would have to say advantage Boeing here because the airline already flies 14 737NGs with five more on order.   The airline’s CEO noted the challenges with flying a mixed fleet.  However, it is interesting to note that Bombardier is being considered for this order. Indeed Bombardier seems to be actively involved in chasing the order.  Ethiopian already flies 13 Q400s and also is an authorized service facility for the airplane.  The CSeries that could compete in a 150-seat category would be the CS300.  This means high density seating to enable it to compete with the A320neo and 737-8MAX.  The latter two are clearly larger aircraft and will be priced aggressively.  Possibly more aggressively than Bombardier can compete with.  But its interesting to see the airline bringing Bombardier into this race.  It could be a polite invitation since Ethiopian already uses their aircraft and has a strong customer relationship.  When asked for comment, all Bombardier would say to us is that they are competing for the order.

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