MIAMI — Ethiopian Airlines has chosen the Boeing 737 MAX 8 for its narowbody fleet replacement, placing an order for 20 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft with purchase options for an additional 15 737 MAX 8s. Ethiopian’s order had previously been marked as unidentified on Boeing’s orders and deliveries spreadsheet. Boeing declined to comment on delivery dates for the aircraft.

Ethiopian Airlines already operates the Boeing 737, with a fleet of ten Boeing 737-800s and eight Boeing 737-700s. The Addis Ababa based airline also operates a fleet of four Boeing 757-200s, which could conceivably be replaced by the 737 MAX 8, or its larger cousin; the 737 MAX 9. Ethiopian primarily uses its 737s on medium-haul routes within Africa and the Middle East (preferring the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop for high frequency short haul service), while the 757s also operate to Europe.

Ethiopian’s order for up to 35 aircraft is aimed not only at replacing its existing fleet, but also at growth, with the carrier aiming to more than double traffic to 18 million passengers per year by 2025.

“Today’s order underlines our commitment to our 15-year strategic plan, ‘Vision 2025’, in which Ethiopian will strive to become the leading airline group in Africa carrying 18 million passengers per annum,” said Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, during a visit to the Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa National Forum in Chicago. “The 737 MAX will form a key component of that strategic vision, enhancing our single-aisle fleet and keeping us at the forefront of African aviation.”

The airline reportedly weighed the 737 MAX, which will enter into service (EIS) in 2017, against rival Airbus’ A320neo, which has outsold the 737 MAX ahead of its planned EIS in late 2015. The order is the latest in a series of head-to-head victories for the MAX in order competitions against the A320neo, which still holds an edge in purchase commitments (Firm and MoU) of 3,288 to 2,393 copies. Airways News also understands that Ethiopian is weighing a follow up order for the larger 737 MAX 9, which will offer more capacity and range for expansion from Ethiopian’s Abu Dhabi home base.hor at