Africa Aviation: Ethiopian Airlines Eyes Significant Fleet Expansion

Ethiopian Airlines Group has fully recovered to pre-pandemic operational levels, the company’s CEO said, and is now looking to further expand its fleet and network map.

“Now we are operating around 140 aircraft, but this number continuously varies. By 2035, we forecast 271 aircraft in our operations. That means we need at least 130 additional aircraft,” Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mesfin Tasew told Aviation Daily on the sidelines of the recent IATA annual general meeting in Istanbul.

And with older aircraft needing to be replaced, that number could increase, he said. “My estimation is to make the next round of aircraft orders by the end of the year. Then we should be able to do it. It will be a mix of narrowbody and widebody aircraft,” Tasew said.

“The Embraer E2 series versus the Airbus A220 are candidates of the lower end of aircraft size,” he said, adding that the carrier is still evaluating a 100-seater. “We might choose such an aircraft.”

Besides the A320neo and the Boeing 737 MAX as narrowbody contenders, the 777X and A350-1000 are being considered for the widebody side of the order.

As of June 5, Ethiopian Airlines’ orderbook comprises 29 aircraft: 17 737 MAXs, five 777Fs, one 787-9 and six A350-1000s, Tasew said. In the current financial year, which ends June 30, the airline received 12 new aircraft.

As the carrier prepares for a busy summer season, it is also being affected by the global supply chain issues impacting the much of the aviation industry.

“Not on the older models like the De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q400 or Boeing 737NGs,” Tasew said. “The problems are with A350s and 787s. We have a critical shortage on components.”

So far it has not been necessary to ground aircraft, he said, “but in July and August during the high season, every aircraft is needed and then we could have a problem.”

Regarding network growth, in a year or two the Star Alliance member may expand to Australia, the last continent to which it is not flying, via Singapore. More services to the Americas are also being planned. “We want to increase flights to Toronto, and for Montreal we have applied for traffic rights,” he said. In the U.S., Ethiopian operates to New York JFK, Newark, Chicago O´Hare, Atlanta and Washington Dulles. In South America, the carrier serves Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo, “but our network is permanently developing and when we see an opportunity then we use it,” Tasew said. In Europe, Madrid and Lisbon are also on the radar.

Besides serving 63 international destinations in Africa, Ethiopian’s current domestic network of 20 airports will increase to 27, as five new airports are planned in the nation.

For the current fiscal year, the airline will be reporting slightly higher passenger numbers of 13 million compared to 12.2 million in 2019.

“Our revenue met our target,” Tasew said. “It will be about 50% higher compared to pre-COVID levels and partly contributed by cargo. Cargo still has a big contribution to our overall revenue.”

Source: Aviation Week Network