Ethiopian Airlines has an eye on A220 and Embraer jets

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Ethiopian Airlines is proud to say that it is among the airlines that flies to most countries in the world – no fewer than 77 of them, and 137 destinations worlwide.

But your ambitions are greater than that. Owner of the largest fleet in Africa currently with 126 aircraft, the Ethiopian airline aims to modernize its regional jet fleet by adding either Airbus A220 or Embraer aircraft.

Currently, the airline has a fleet of 69 regional jets, comprised of 32- De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 and 9- Boeing B737-700NG, 20- Boeing B737-800 and 8 – Boeing B737 MAX.

While the airline is evaluating its options, the final choice will be made in the first quarter of 2023, the airline’s CEO has hinted in an interview with the German news outlet, AeroTelegraph.

Recovery opens the way for new jets

The airline has already expressed its interest in the Airbus A220 more than once. When the Airbus A220 was still called the Bombardier C-Series, Ethiopian Airlines wanted to buy 20 copies. But when the Europeans took over the division from the Canadians, Africa’s largest airline backed down in mid-2018.

“Three or four years ago, we started evaluating new regional aircraft. We looked at the entire market, including products from China, Japan and Russia,” the newly appointed chief executive officer Mesfin Tasew Bekele said in the interview.

Ethiopian is again talking about a possible A220 order. The new boss says, according to the magazine Airline Weekly, that in the current fiscal year, which ends in June 2023, the number of travelers will return to the pre-pandemic level. As a result of this recovery, the company is again busy ordering aircraft with around 100 seats.

The CEO says the choice is between the Airbus A220-100 or Embraer E195-E2. While both aircraft families are targeting a relatively underserved 100-150 seat market, both have notable differences.

“In the end, we reduced the selection to two models, Airbus A220 and Embraer E2. But then we put the decision on ice, also because of Covid 19. I expect that we will make the final decision in the first quarter of 2023,” he said.

Embraer E195-E2 also in the race

At least for the time being, the European manufacturer has the upper hand. The CEO stated that the A220 “best fits the Ethiopian Airlines market” and that Airbus has offered the best commercial conditions.

“We see a gap in aircraft with around 100 seats. On some of our domestic routes, the Dash 8 with its up to 78 seats is already too small. We will use the regional jets there. There are also regional routes that we can serve with them,” Bekele says when asked which routes will be flown by the new regional jets.

Airbus specifies a maximum number of seats of 135 for the A220-100 and a typical two-class seating arrangement with 100 to 120 seats. This makes the planes larger than the De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400, which Ethiopian operates with 78, 71 and 67 seats, and smaller than the Boeing 737-800 with 154 seats and the 737 Max 8 with 160 seats.

In comparison, the Embraer E2 jet family currently comprises three variants, the E175-E2, the E190-E2, and the E195-E2.

The smallest version of the E2 jet family, the E175-E2 has a capability to seat up to 90 passengers, while the layout of the E190-E2 seats 114. The largest variant, the E195-E2, is capable of carrying a maximum of 146 passengers, and has a maximum range of 4,815 kilometers. However, the E190-E2, which has fewer seats than the newest E1955-E2, has a range of 5,278 kilometers.

With the addition of either Airbus A220 or Embraer E2 aircraft, the Ethiopian airline would be replacing its existing fleet Boeing 737-700 with 115 and 118 seats will be phased out by Ethiopian in the next few years, the CEO says.

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