Dubai Airshow: Ethiopian Airlines places order for up to 67 Boeing jets

The African carrier aims to double its fleet to 270 aircraft as part of its 2035 strategic road map

Brad McMullen of Boeing and Mesfin Tasew of Ethiopian Airlines during a signing ceremony at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday. Alvin R Cabral / The National
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Ethiopian Airlines has placed an order for up to 67 Boeing aircraft as it aims to become one of the top 20 leading carriers globally by 2035.

The deal comprises firm orders for 20 737-8 jets, with an option for an additional 21, and 11 787-9 Dreamliners, with the possibility of a further 15, the companies said at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday.

The orders are part of the Addis Ababa-based carrier's 2035 strategic road map, which include plans to double its fleet to 270 aircraft, Mesfin Tasew, group chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines Group, said.

The plan calls for the acquisition of more planes and the opening of new routes to boost operations and, consequently, the airline's bottom line, he said.

The aircraft, which are expected to be delivered from 2026 through to 2030, are on top of existing orders for 25 jets, 21 from Boeing and four from Airbus, Mr Tasew said.

“The number of aeroplanes that we are ordering today is just one step forward. We'll continue ordering more as much as it fits our fleet plan,” he said.

Ethiopian Airlines will lease Boeing 787 and Max planes while waiting for the new aircraft, after plane manufacturers' fully-booked schedules meant it could not secure earlier deliveries.

“We are still competing with various international airlines, mostly those from the Middle East and Europe, but every airline would like to grow to compete,” Mr Tasew said.

“Our goal is to develop our internal capacity to enable us to effectively compete … our vision is by 2035, we should be one of the top 20 global leading airlines.”

The African aviation market is poised for marked growth, with the continent projected to require about 1,025 aircraft over the next two decades, Boeing has previously forecast.

Of these, more than 70 per cent of commercial deliveries are expected to be single-aisle jets, it said.

Africa's overall air traffic growth is pegged at 7.4 per cent through 2042, which would be the third-highest among global regions and above the global average of 6.1 per cent, the US plane maker said.

Ethiopian Airlines, the launch customer for the Dreamliner in Africa, has been a Boeing customer for nearly 75 years, and the new agreement is expected to boost the efficiency of its fleet.

“This will enable you to continue to keep the average age of your fleet young,” said Brad McMullen, senior vice president for commercial sales and marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 1:13 PM