Ethiopian Air­lines agrees to pur­chase four Boe­ing 777 freighters in deal worth $1.3bn

The National - News - - BUSINESS - MAS­SOUD A DERHALLY AND SARAH TOWNSEND

Ethiopian Air­lines, sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa’s largest car­rier, agreed to buy four Boe­ing 777 freighters in a deal worth US$1.3 bil­lion, and con­tin­ues its dis­cus­sions with the Chicago plane man­u­fac­turer to buy wide-body 777Xs, while also mulling the pur­chase of mid­sized air­craft the com­pany is look­ing to pro­duce.

“We are still dis­cussing the [pos­si­bil­ity of or­der­ing] 777X” chief ex­ec­u­tive Te­wolde Ge­bre­Mariam said at the Dubai Air­show yes­ter­day.

“As an air­line we want an air­plane to re­place the 757. It’s right-sized and right range for the mis­sion that we have, es­pe­cially tak­ing [into ac­count] the al­ti­tude at Ad­dis Ababa air­port,” he said.

Ethiopian would be in­ter­ested in buy­ing be­tween 10 and 20 of the air­craft if Boe­ing de­cides to pro­duce them, Mr Ge­bre­Mariam added.

Ear­lier this week Boe­ing, the world’s largest aero­space com­pany, said strong in­ter­est has been reg­is­tered in the Mid­dle East for a mid-sized jet and it is pro­gress­ing with plans to de­velop a new model, but did not pro­vide a time­frame for the air­craft.

Ear­lier re­ports have sug­gested the air­craft would have 220 to 270 seats and a smaller cargo hold to in­crease pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity.

Ethiopia is Africa’s fastest­grow­ing econ­omy and is set to ex­pand 8.5 per cent in 2017, ac­cord­ing to the IMF. Half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion will re­side in Africa by 2050 ac­cord­ing to United Na­tions fig­ures.

Africa has al­ways faced “tail­winds due to ris­ing de­mand [rather than head­winds due to ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion].

“So we ex­pect the tail­winds to con­tinue, it’s a very fast-grow­ing re­gion,” Mr Ge­bre­Mariam said.

The car­rier does not plan on pur­chas­ing any Air­bus A350s and the ex­pan­sion of the coun­try’s air­port is pro­gress­ing, he said.

“Maybe part of the project will be com­pleted by mid-2018 – the ex­pan­sion of the ex­ist­ing air­port, we are ex­pand­ing the ter­mi­nal. In to­tal, when the project is fully op­er­a­tional it will take ca­pac­ity to 22 mil­lion pas­sen­gers, around 10 mil­lion now,” Mr Ge­bre­Mariam said.

Ethiopian, which com­petes with South African Air­ways and Kenya Air­ways, had com­mit­ted to two freighters at the Paris Air­show but topped that pledge with two air­craft yes­ter­day. The air­line will be­gin tak­ing de­liv­ery of the air­craft in 2018. Ethiopian Air­lines has 20 777-200s al­ready in op­er­a­tion.

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