African carrier will launch tender for major expansion and new routes as Boeing makes the running

Ethiopian Airlines is on the brink of launching a tender for a major expansion of its long-haul fleet in response to a study showing room for growth in its pan-African network.

Boeing has "done considerable work with Ethiopian Airlines, looking at their route structure to tailor the fleet to their requirements, across our product range", says Lee Monson, Boeing Commercial Airplanes senior vice-president Middle East and Africa sales. Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Girma Wake says the carrier is "months away" from launching a request for information on long-haul types and says the carrier requires around 15 Airbus A350s or Boeing 7E7s. The carrier - now an all-Boeing operator - wants to launch routes to South America, Asia and possibly to the USA, adds Wake.

Additionally, Ethiopian Airlines says it will review its single-aisle requirement next year. The airline says this will fall broadly in line with recommendations made by consultants Ernst & Young. Their report found considerable room for expansion from the airline's base at newly reconstructed Addis Ababa airport, especially for cross-African routes. The report recommends a doubling in size of the short-haul fleet.

Ethiopian now has five Boeing 757s, of which one is a cargo variant; five 767-300ERs, of which three will be returned off lease next year; four 737-700s and a 737-200. An additional 767-300ER will be delivered in June; with another 737-700 arriving in July. Industry sources expect the carrier to place an order for around six 737 Next Generation aircraft.

Monson says any sale would be accompanied by an offset deal and talks are advanced with its two South African suppliers Aerosud and Denel Aerospace to establish subsidiaries in Ethiopia to lead possible local manufacturing efforts. Ethiopian Airlines' maintenance, repair and overhaul base is also being evaluated, he adds.

Boeing says TAAG Angola Airlines and Libyan Arab Airlines are Africa's largest potential campaigns, with both carriers looking for complete fleet replacements. TAAG says it will take three 777s and six 737s, although the deal is yet to be finalised, while Boeing is "working" with the US authorities to acquire an export licence before starting detailed talks with the carrier.

The US manufacturer has 80% of the market in Africa and has restructured its sales arm in a bid to retain this level of sales, says Monson. The US manufacturer estimates a requirement for around 570 aircraft over the next 20 years in Africa, with 49% being single-aisle types.


Source: Flight International