By Kaleyesys Bekele, The Reporter
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Executives of Ethiopian Airlines are in talks with bigwigs of Boeing to lease six to eight Boeing 787-8 early build Dreamliner aircraft.
These aircraft were manufactured by the American airframer, Boeing, in the early days of production of Dreamliner aircraft. The early build aircraft are heavier than those that are being assembled now and have shorter range because of their weight. The aircraft are currently parked at Boeing’s manufacturing plant in Everett, near Seattle, Washington state. The original customers were said to have balked because the aircraft were too heavy, limiting their range.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremarim, told The Reporter that his airline is discussing with Boeing to lease about 6-8 early build B787 Dreamliners. “We want to lease them but we will not purchase them. The issue is still under discussion,” Tewolde said.
Ethiopia’s national flag carrier is the third airline in the world to own and operate Dreamliner next to All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines in August 2012. Currently, Ethiopian operates 11 Dreamliner aircraft making it the largest Dreamliner fleet operator in Africa.
Tewolde said that B787 was a very good airplane. “It is fuel efficient and it is very comfortable,” Tewolde told The Reporter. He adds, “It is our core fleet and very popular among our customer. We have more load factor on the routes we operate Dreamliners.”
Though Ethiopian needs to order for more Dreamliners it was unable find slot at Boeing as the US aircraft manufacturer is fully booked. Subsequently, the airline leased three B787 from ILFC. The first one was delivered to the airline last month and the other two will arrive in Addis Ababa in the coming weeks.
Boeing has been trying to sell the overweight aircraft around half the cost of the catalogue price of 218 million dollars in order to free them from the drag on Boeing’s balance sheet. Another African carrier, Air Austral, is also said to be in discussion with Boeing to buy two early build 787-8 Dreamliners.
Ethiopian fleet is dominated by Boeing aircraft. Currently, the national flag carrier operates B787, B777, B767, B7575, B737, MD11 and Bombardier Q400 aircraft. For the first time in its long history Ethiopian placed orders for Airbus aircraft in 2009. Ethiopian ordered 14 A350-900, Airbus’ new jetliner. Delivery of these aircraft would begin next year.
Currently, Ethiopian is evaluating the B777x and Airbus A350-1000. The airline operates 81 aircraft and plans to boost the number to 140 by 2025.
Ethiopian is scaling up its operation by opening up more destinations and this has prompted the airline to acquire more jetliners. At the moment the airline has 43 aircraft on its order book.