Ethiopian Airlines is preparing to take delivery of its first Boeing 777, a -200LR that will be used on long-haul routes ahead of the introduction of Boeing 787s.

Ethiopian chief executive Girma Wake says the first of five 777-200LRs the carrier has on firm order will be delivered in November. A second 777-200LR will arrive in December, followed by a third in January 2011.

Wake says Ethiopian expects its final two 777-200LRs will be delivered in April and July 2011. He says the idea is to finish inducting its new 777 fleet just ahead of its first 787 delivery, which Ethiopian still expects will take place in July 2011 despite the latest delays in the programme and the slip in first delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways to the first quarter of 2011.

Ethiopian has 10 787s on order and Wake says all 10 will be delivered by the end of 2012. He says the carrier has begun preparations, including a plan for training pilots, to induct 10 787s in only an 18-month window.

Ethiopian Airlines 787
 © Boeing
Ethiopian has 10 787s on order to be delivered by the end of 2012

Wake says Ethiopian plans to deploy its 787s on Asian, African and European routes, although it will be up to his successor to decide on which specific route will get the 787 first. Ethiopian recently announced that Tewolde Gebremariam, currently the carrier's chief operating officer, will take over as Ethiopian's chief when Wake retires at the beginning of next year.

Wake says Ethiopian's initial batch of three 777-200LRs will be used primarily to replace Boeing 767s on services from Addis Abba to Beijing and Washington Dulles. He says these aircraft will also be deployed during daylight hours in dense African markets including Angola and Nigeria.

Ethiopian expects to use its second batch of 777-200ERs to launch service in summer 2011 to Toronto, which will the carrier's second North American destination. Wake says Ethiopian is also now studying launching service to several other US destinations including Atlanta, Houston and New York.

Ethiopian's jet passenger fleet currently consists of 11 Boeing 767-300ERs, nine 757-200s and seven 737-700/800s, according to Flightglobal's ACAS database. In addition to its first 777s, Wake says Ethiopian will take three additional 737-800s in the fourth quarter of this year, which will be used to further expand the carrier's African network.

Ethiopian is eagerly awaiting the delivery of additional aircraft to support its ambitious expansion plan. Wake says its current fleet is being operated at maximum capacity, including 16h daily average utilisation on its 767s. "I think the capacity we have today is not adequate for the market," Wake says. "Africa can still accommodate more capacity. Any airplane we get we'll definitely utilise."

Source: Flight International