Air transport: the mega order from Ethiopian Airlines
Par Ibrahima DIALLO
18 November 2023 / 12:06

This is certainly the largest order for civil aircraft ever placed by an African airline. Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's leading airline, has ordered several dozen aircraft from Boeing and Airbus. The Ethiopian flag carrier is thus giving itself the means to fulfill its ambitions of controlling the African skies in the perspective of the continental open sky.

In the race for size, Ethiopian Airlines has just given a boost to its ambitious fleet expansion program. On the sidelines of the Dubai Air Show, held from November 13 to 17, Africa's leading airline has placed a mega-order for aircraft with the world's two largest aircraft manufacturers, thus giving itself the means to achieve its ambitions of consolidating its continental leadership.

The tempo was set on Tuesday, November 14, with a firm order for 31 aircraft from the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing. The order includes 11 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and 20 Boeing 737-8 MAXs. At list price, the order is worth around $5.2 billion.

However, as a loyal and long-standing Boeing customer and Africa's leading airline, Ethiopian will benefit from significant discounts on catalog prices. In addition, the company has secured purchase options for 21 additional MAX-8 modules and 15 Dreamliner 787-9s, making a total of 36 additional aircraft from the American manufacturer.

On the European aircraft manufacturer's side, Ethiopian Airlines placed an order for 11 Airbus A350-900s on Wednesday November 15. "We are particularly enthusiastic about this fleet, as it offers additional comfort for passengers," said Mesfin Tasew, CEO of Ethiopian.

With this new order, the Ethiopian airline brings to 33 the total number of Airbus A350-900s it has committed to purchase. The Ethiopian airline, which currently operates 20 A350-900s, will thus increase its long-haul fleet from the European aircraft manufacturer to 33 aircraft, including 4 A350-1000s due for delivery from the end of 2024.

Africa's leading airline placed a firm order for a total of 42 aircraft at the Dubai Air Show, plus an option for a further 36. This makes it the largest single order ever placed by an African airline.

With these orders, the Ethiopian airline, which has one of the youngest fleets in the world, has two objectives. Firstly, to increase the size of its fleet in order to expand its network and sustain its growth. To this end, in December 2022, the company unveiled its Vision 2035, which will see its fleet double from 135 aircraft at the end of 2022 to 271 by 2025.

With a fleet of this size, Ethiopian Airlines will continue to dominate African skies, especially as it continues to weave its web of capital-intensive partnerships. After Sky Airlines, Malawi Airlines and Zambian Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines is negotiating with the DRC and Nigeria to launch public flag carriers in these two countries.

On the other hand, the acquisition of the latest, more fuel-efficient aircraft enables the company to improve its customer service and offer greater operating profitability. Overall, the latest generation aircraft consume 20% less fuel than older models of the same capacity.

With the increase in its fleet, the Ethiopian flag will be able to further extend its dense network of covered destinations and accentuate its domination of the African sky in the run-up to the liberation of the African Open Sky supported by the major African airlines (Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, EgyptAir, South African Airlines, Kenya Airways...) which should intensify competition between the continent's airlines.

37 countries have committed to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), and 23 are ready to implement the African Open Sky.

The Ethiopian airline plans to increase its network of destinations from 131 to 207, further consolidating its position as one of the world's leading airlines in terms of network. On the African continent, it serves over 60 destinations.

This enables Ethiopian to better position itself in view of the increase in the number of people carried by African airlines, which is set to rise from 111 million in 2015 to 303 million in 2035, according to IATA projections. In this respect, thanks to the investments made, Ethiopian expects to carry 65 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of freight, for total sales of 25 billion dollars by 2035.

Ethiopian Airlines is one of the continent's few profitable airlines. For the 2021-2022 financial year, it achieved a record net profit of $937 million.

Ethiopian is a highly diversified group which includes, among others: Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Airports, Ethiopian Inflight Services, Ethiopian MRO Services, Ethiopian Skylight Hotel and Ethiopian Aviation Academy. It is a 100% Ethiopian-owned group, whose capital is held by Ethiopian Investment Holdings (EIH), a sovereign wealth fund representing Ethiopia's long-term commercial and investment interests.

Moussa Diop




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