Ethiopia Airlines to buy five Boeing cargo planes


Ethiopian Airlines (ET) aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Ethiopian Airlines will purchase five 777-8 freighters after reaching a deal with the US plane maker Boeing as it seeks to ramp up its cargo services.

The move is expected to tighten freight competition between the Addis-based carrier and Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ .

The Ethiopian carrier has reached a preliminary deal with the Boeing for the purchase of the high-capacity aircraft, making it the second airline in the world to have made plans of buying the cargo version of the next generation 777 aircraft.

Expanding the freighter fleet is part of Ethiopian Airlines’ long-term strategy for growing its cargo and logistics business at a time when the carriers are grappling with low demand for passengers on the back of Covid-19 restrictions.

Currently, the airline operates nine 777 freighters plying to different destinations across the world. The carrier’s fleet also includes three 737-800 Boeing that have been converted into freighters.

In January, Qatar Airways, which is the first customer to book the Boeing 777-8, placed an order for 34 twin-engine aircraft.

The 777-8 is rivals the new freighter version of Airbus’ popular A350 widebody aircraft. Airbus has won orders and commitments for 29 A350 freighter aircraft from five customers so far.

Kenya Airways converted two of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner into freighters as it sought to grow its revenue in the wake of falling revenue from the passenger segment.

The national carrier plans to increase its share of the revenue from cargo at least to 20 percent from the current 10.

Specifications show the 777-8 has a payload capacity nearly identical to the legacy 747-400 freighter with a 30 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and emissions, making it much less expensive to operate.

The aviation regulator has in the last couple of years granted Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways permission to fly cargo directly from Nairobi to the world during peak seasons because of lack of enough capacity by Kenya Airways locally.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority approved 20 flights for Ethiopian carrier and five for Qatar Airways last month for transportation of flowers to Europe.

[email protected]