- The company has upsized four of its A350-900 on order to the largest variant of the A350 Family, the A350-1000, becoming Africa’s first customer for the aircraft
Ethiopian Airlines Group, the flag carrier of Ethiopia, Africa’s largest airline group, has upsized four of its A350-900 on order to the largest variant of the A350 Family, the A350-1000, becoming Africa’s first customer for the aircraft.
Ethiopian Airlines has already ordered 22 A350-900s, of which 16 aircraft have been delivered. With the A350-1000 upsizing, Ethiopian Airlines’ backlog consists of four A350-1000s and two A350-900s.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mr. Mesfin Tasew said: “We are delighted over the upsizing of the A350-900 on order to the largest variant, A350-1000, that helps us stay ahead of the curve in technology. We are the technology leaders in the continent introducing the latest technology and fuel-efficient fleet into Africa. Mikail Houari, President, Airbus Africa and Middle East said;
“The A350-1000 is the best fit for our dense routes, and we believe that the upsizing will be instrumental in satisfying the increasing demand of customers in our vast global network across five continents. We will continue on keeping ourselves abreast of aviation technology advancements to enhance our service and fulfil customers’ demand.
“We are proud of our strong partnership with Ethiopian Airlines – the first airline in Africa to order and operate the A350-900. In another first, Ethiopian Airlines is once again leading the way in Africa’s aviation sector by introducing the A350-1000, the largest version of the world’s most efficient and technologically advanced passenger aircraft.
“The A350-900 has delivered extraordinary capability, fuel efficiency, and operational reliability of 99.5 percent together with unbeatable operational flexibility and efficiency, from short to ultra-long-range operations.”
The A350-1000 will increase the East African carrier’s capacity and it will be an addition to its modern wide-body fleet. The airline will benefit from a flexible, high- value Family leveraging Airbus’ unprecedented level of commonality and same type rating.
The Airbus A350’s clean-sheet design features state-of-the-art aerodynamics, a carbon-fibre fuselage and wings, plus the most fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.
Together, these latest technologies translate into unrivalled levels of operational efficiency and sustainability for Ethiopian Airlines, with a 25% reduction in fuel-burn and CO2 emissions compared to previous generation twin-aisle aircraft.
The Ethiopian Airlines Fleet In 2022
Connecting much of the world through its Addis Ababa hub, what aircraft is Ethiopian Airlines flying in 2022?
With well over 100 aircraft both narrowbody and widebody, Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s largest airline by fleet size. The carrier has an extremely diverse fleet of aircraft which it uses to connect passengers from North America and Europe to Africa, and vice versa. The fleet has grown slightly in the past year, so let’s look at its current state in this article.
The Ethiopian fleet at a glance
First, let’s look at the aircraft types and quantities within the airline’s collection of aircraft. The following list summarizes the carrier’s fleet composition at the time of this article’s publication, according to Planespotters.net. Quantities of each aircraft type are shown in parentheses.
- Airbus A350-900 (18)
- Boeing 737-700 (6)
- Boeing 737-800 (19)
- Boeing 737-800F (4)
- Boeing 737 MAX 8 (7)
- Boeing 767-300ER (3)
- Boeing 777-200LR (6)
- Boeing 777-300ER (4)
- Boeing 777-200F (9)
- Boeing 787-8 (19)
- Boeing 787-9 (8)
- De Havilland Canada DHC-8-400(33)
As we had also noted in the 2021 edition of this article, numbers are slightly inflated depending on how you define which aircraft are actually in the carrier’s fleet. That’s because, while all aircraft might be legally under the care of Ethiopian Airlines, some of these aircraft are out operating for other airlines. Indeed, Ethiopian Airlines has leased some of these aircraft out to carriers like Zambia Airways, Malawian Airlines, and Asky Airlines. Aircraft types that include some leased-out aircraft include the Boeing 737-700, 737-800, and DHC-8-400.
One airline which utilizes aircraft from Ethiopian won’t be around much longer. Indeed, Chad’s Tchadia Airlines has been placed into liquidation, following three consecutive years of financial losses. Despite facing no direct competition on the majority of its routes, and even with the backing and leadership of heavyweight Ethiopian Airlines, the carrier hasn’t been able to overcome the financial impacts of the pandemic.
There’s also a special agreement involving Ethiopian Airlines, pertaining to one Boeing 767-300ER. While this jet is operated by Ethiopian Airlines, it isn’t flying regular commercial passengers. Rather, this one widebody operates for the United Nations – or the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service to be precise. The jet comes complete with its own plain and solid white UN livery and is configured with 24 business class seats and 211 seats in the economy class cabin.
Another interesting arrangement worth mentioning has to do with Czech Republic leisure airline Smartwings, which recently leased an Ethiopian Airlines A350 for a short time this summer. Used for one route for a less than a month, Ethiopian Airlines flew for Smartwings between June 19th and July 10th on the 818 miles (1,317km) between Prague and Burgas, a popular Bulgarian resort destination along the Black Sea. This short-lived arrangement was made possible by the fact that Ethiopian Airlines typically have aircraft sitting on the ground all day at airports across Europe due to the strategic timing of services. This created an opportunity to make use of the downtime, which is arranged through ACC Aviation. In 2019, ACC Aviation’s CEO, Phil Mathews, said:
Ethiopian Airlines’ modern fleet includes Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A350s, which are not generally available. This partnership gives ACC’s clients access to some of the most contemporary widebody capacity in the ad-hoc charter and wet leasing market.
The MAX is back
Last year we noted that Ethiopian had four Boeing 737 MAX 8s in its fleet but that the carrier wasn’t actually operating them. Things have changed since, as the airline is again using the type for passenger service, now having seven of the variant. One was delivered in June 2022 while another two came in July. However, there are quite a few more on the way.
In fact, Ethiopian Airlines resumed 737 MAX passenger service with its first flight back taking place on February 1st, 2022. This was the airline’s first since the tragic crash in March 2019 which prompted a worldwide grounding of the MAX. Given the tragic history of this type as it relates to Ethiopian Airlines, it was always understood that the airline would be one of the last carriers to resume commercial passenger service of the 737 MAX.
Aware of the public and media scrutiny of such a move, Ethiopian’s then CEO Tewolde GebreMariam stated in December 2021,
“In line with our initially stated commitment to become among the last airlines to return the 737-Max, we have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous recertification process and we have ensured that our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians and cabin crew are confident on the safety of the fleet.”
ch-aviation.com data indicates that the airline has another 23 of these jets yet to be delivered. Meanwhile, Planespotters.net data indicates that five of these undelivered jets already have registration numbers assigned, thus indicating that more deliveries will take place in the very near future.
Old and new widebodies
Looking at the airline’s fleet and quantities, it’s clear that the carrier’s passenger widebody fleet divides into new and more efficient widebodies and older generation widebodies. On the older side are the airline’s Boeing 767-300ERs as well as its 777-200LRs. These sub fleets have an average age of 18 years and 11 years, respectively.
On the modern side, we have the next-generation Airbus A350 and Boeing 787. The average age of these fleets is roughly four years and six and a half years, respectively. Somewhat in the middle are the airline’s four Boeing 777-300ERs, which are an average of eight years of age.
ch-aviation.com data indicates that Ethiopian is still taking delivery of more widebodies, with two more A350-900s and two more 787-9s on the way. Judging by recent news, the airline was supposed to be taking more A350-900s but had made the decision to ‘upsize’ some of these undelivered aircraft to the larger A350-1000. This decision was confirmed in July 2022 and makes Ethiopian Airlines Africa’s first airline customer of Airbus’ flagship A350-1000 aircraft.
Ethiopian Airlines Group current CEO, Mesfin Tasew, marked the deal, saying,
“We are delighted over the upsizing of the A350-900 on order to the largest variant, A350-1000, that helps us stay ahead of the curve in technology…The A350-1000 is the best fit for our dense routes, and we believe that the upsizing will be instrumental in satisfying the increasing demand of customers in our vast global network across five continents.”
Is the 777X an option?
Given the carrier’s incredibly diverse fleet, could the airline also consider the Boeing 777-9 in the future? Back in 2016, Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO at the time, Tewolde GebreMariam told Reuters that the airline had an eye on something bigger for its fleet, saying to the publication:
“We are comparing the A350-1000 and also the 777X. Depending on which performs well out of Addis Ababa at altitude and high temperature, we are going to make that decision.”
Of course, if we fast-forward six years to today, we know that the carrier will be taking delivery of a handful of A350-1000s. On one hand, this could indicate a closed door to the 777X. However, with the aviation industry continuing to recover and grow, perhaps it’s possible for Ethiopian to consider the Boeing widebody later in the decade – especially since it is still operating various 777 variants. Another possibility is for the carrier to go for the Boeing 777X freighter to further boost its cargo capacity – something many airlines have decided to do since the pandemic.
Dash 8 converted freighters
While big jets typically take the spotlight, another exciting development for the airline in 2022 was the announcement that Ethiopian Airlines Group had signed a proposal with De Havilland Canada for as many as four Dash 8 freighter conversion kits. Taking place on the third day of the 2022 Farnborough International Airshow, the proposed deal includes firm orders for two of De Havilland’s Dash 8-400 Freighter – Large Cargo Door (F-LCD) conversion kits, with additional options for two more kits.
It’s all tentative at the moment and will take some time to materialize. That’s because the conversion kits are still under development. If all goes according to plan, the certification process is expected to take around 24 months with the first converted Dash 8s entering commercial service no earlier than the second half of 2024.
As the name suggests, the F-LCD adds a large cargo door to the forward fuselage for easier loading and unloading. Measuring 109 feet X 69 feet (2.8m X 1.8m), the door conversion will ensure that aircraft are able to accommodate containerized cargo using the onboard cargo loading system. Post-conversion, the Dash 8s will be able to handle container types such as LD1, LD2, LD3, and LD4.
Continued growth and dominance in Africa
It’s exciting to see Ethiopian Airlines continue to grow and evolve, now transitioning from older generation aircraft to modern and more efficient jets. The airline appears to have regained confidence in the MAX as it continues to follow through with its 30-aircraft order of the type.
So what do you think could be the next big moves for Ethiopian? Will it be a 777X freighter order? Or something else?
Source Simple Flying