Boeing and Airbus may be vying for a larger presence in the wide-body fleet of Ethiopian Airlines as the Star Alliance airline still weighs whether to expand its fleet with the 366-seat Airbus A350-1000 or the latest version of the 777 long-haul jet built by its traditional supplier Boeing, widely known as the 777X, its chief executive told Aviation week. By the end of the year, the airline is expected to back one of the two aerospace giants’ designs.
In 2016, the Ethiopian chief told Reuters that they are comparing the A350-1000 and also the 777X and their choice will depend on which aircraft performs well out of Addis Ababa Bole Airport’s altitude and high temperature.
Five years later, the airline is reportedly on its final stages of decision-making process regarding its next widebody order. Speaking to Aviation Week, the carrier’s CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, confirmed that one of the designs that he is considering is the stretched-fuselage Airbus A350-1000.
“We are working with Airbus, which has made a lot of modifications,” Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said.
The -1000 variant of Airbus’s next-generation wide body family clocks in at 73.79 meters long meaning an added seven meters of length over the 66.8-meter-long A350-900 variant, translates to around 55 extra seats.
However, the extra capacity isn’t the only selling point for Ethiopian Airlines. GebreMariam also noted that the A350-1000 would be well suited to Addis Ababa’s high altitude.
“It looks like the A350-1000 is good for the high altitude of 2,200 m (7,200 feet) above sea level at our hub at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, so we are okay [with the aircraft performance].”
While GebreMariam considers the A350-1000 to be an attractive proportion for his airline, it is not the only widebody design that the Ethiopian Group CEO is considering. The airline CEO is also weighing up the possibility of bringing the Boeing 777X series to Addis Ababa.
Regarding Boeing’s next-generation widebody, GebreMariam told Aviation Week that, “As you know, the 777X is delayed. However, we are talking with Boeing [as well]. Before the end of the year, we plan to have mad a decision.”
Boeing’s disadvantage is the fading chance of its 777X being available in time. The still-to-fly 777X will come in two models, with the larger 777-9X rolled out first. That version is already delayed due to safety concerns with the FAA saying it will not certify the aircraft until atleast mid to late 2023.
Regardless of which design the airline goes for, GebreMariam plans to order at least 10 narrow-bodies to accompany his carrier’s existing twin-aisle fleet.
Ethiopian’s current widebody fleet includes a fleet of 65 aircraft majorly Boeing designs, according to planespotters.net. Out of this, 16 are the A350-900s with two on order.
In terms of Boeing aircraft, Ethiopian’s most common design is the 787-8, of which it operates 19. There are also eight 787-9s in the airline’s fleet, alongside three 767-300s.
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By Victor Shalton Odhiambo