Ethiopian Airlines has committed to purchase eight Boeing 777-9s as part of a deal that could see the Addis Ababa-based carrier take a further 12 aircraft.

“Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines announced today an agreement for the East African airline to purchase eight 777-9 passenger airplanes and the potential for up to 12 additional jets,” Boeing said on 5 March.

“Ethiopian Airlines’ selection of 777-9 jets positions the carrier as the first 777X customer in Africa.”

The jets will enable Ethiopian to expand in “high-demand markets in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America”, Boeing adds.

Ethiopian Boeing 777-9

Source: Boeing

The aircraft manufacturer does not call the agreement an order and declines further comment. Ethiopian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Boeing has yet to achieve the 777-9’s certification but aims to pass that milestone in time to begin delivering the type in 2025.

“We are pleased to continue setting the trend in African aviation by adopting cutting-edge technologies to enhance our services and customer satisfaction,” says Mesfin Tasew, chief executive of Ethiopian, a long-time Boeing customer. “The 777-9 offers more flexibility, reduced fuel consumption and carbon emissions.”

Ethiopian operates a fleet of passenger and cargo jets that includes 17 737 Max, 15 737NGs, three 767s, 20 first-generation 777s and 29 787s. It also operates 20 A350s, Cirium fleets data shows.

The new 777-9 agreement indicates continued close ties between Ethiopian and Boeing. The airline last year also ordered another 20 737 Max and 11 more 787s.

Excluding the new 777-9 agreement, Ethiopian’s total outstanding orders include 15 A350s, 35 737 Max, and four 777 freighters plus the 11 787s.

Boeing’s certification of its 777-9 is significantly delayed, with the project’s pace having slowed in recent years amid increased scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration in the wake of the 737 Max crisis.

As of the end of January, Boeing held unfilled orders for 453 777Xs. It says the 777-9 will be capable of carrying 426 passengers and will have 7,285nm (13,492km) of range.