DALLAS — Today, Ethiopian Airlines (ET), the national carrier of Ethiopia, announced that it will order a further 11 A350-900s from Airbus. The agreement comes just a day after ET ordered an additional 67 aircraft from Boeing, including the 787 Dreamliner and 737 MAX.
Unlike ET’s order with Boeing, the announcement is not a firm order; instead, it is in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This means that until the MoU is firmed and translated into a firm order, it will not officially be added to the Airbus backlog. MoUs are often translated into firm orders weeks or months after the MoU is signed. ET’s MoU indicates that it wants to add 11 A350-900s to its fleet, making it the largest user of the A350 in Africa. Once the MOU is signed, it will increase its Airbus A350 order book backlog to 33.
The MoU was announced on the third day of the Dubai Airshow in a signing ceremony between Ethiopian Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer Mesfin Tasew and Christian Scherer, Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International at Airbus. At the signing ceremony, the Addis Ababa-based carrier said it plans to use the additional A350s to expand its fleet size and grow capacity on existing routes.
CEO Mesfin Tasew noted the importance of this order, stating:
“We are excited to place this commitment for 11 Airbus A350-900s. As a customer-focused airline, we are particularly excited about this fleet, as it offers extra comfort to passengers with features like the quietest cabin in its class and ambient lighting. We are keen to expand our fleet size, acquiring the latest technology aircraft to offer a convenient and memorable onboard experience to our esteemed passengers.”
The carrier already operates a mixed long-haul fleet of Airbus and Boeing jets, but the A350 is the only Airbus aircraft in its fleet. ET currently operates a fleet of 20 Airbus A350-900s, of which 18 were received directly from Airbus. Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines power these A350-900s. According to Airbus, the carrier also has four more of the larger A350-1000 in addition to the 29 A350-900s on order.
In addition to the A350, ET ordered eleven more Boeing 787-9 jets, with options for an additional 14 as Ethiopian Airlines continues to bolster its fleet. Boeing and ET announced they would collaborate on cabin modification services for the airline’s existing 787 Dreamliners. The retrofits will enhance passengers’ experience through advanced in-flight entertainment and new seats in all cabins, including lie-flat business-class seats from Boeing’s joint venture, Adient Aerospace.
The A350 has proven to be an excellent aircraft for ET, as they use their A350 fleet on high-traffic routes such as Seoul Incheon and London Heathrow. ET is one of just two airlines in Africa currently operating the A350. The other airline, Air Mauritius (MK), operates four A350-900s out of its base at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU) in Port Louis, Mauritius.
Christian Scherer, Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International for Airbus, commented,
“Ethiopian Airlines is a great example of how to leverage the exceptional values of the A350 for long-haul travel, playing on the benefits of Ethiopia’s unique geographical position that offers the fastest connections between China and Latin America. We are delighted to further strengthen the Ethiopian Airlines fleet, and, through this, continue the great relationship we have built up together.”
The A350-900 can carry up to 350 passengers in a standard three-class configuration and boasts a range of 9,700 nautical miles. Since the A530-900 entered revenue service with Qatar Airways (QR) in January 2015, Airbus has delivered 487 examples of the 900-variant.
The A350 can be operated on short- and medium-haul flights under 2,700 nautical miles just as efficiently as it can on long-haul flights up to 9,700 nautical miles, thus further demonstrating the aircraft’s versatility and efficiency across many different network segments.
Featured image: Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350-900. Photo: Airbus